As a father, this story is particularly worrisome to me. After a new Marcellus site popped up 1,500 ft. from the playground at my 20 month-old’s daycare I called the Rex Energy Cranberry office to ask about protocol for notifying the center before any flaring took place or if anything went wrong at the site. I also asked if there was any training that the staff could receive so than they would be more aware of early warning signs in children in the case of exposure to airborne toxins. I was given Derek Smith’s number and told he was the regional safety officer. I left him a few voice mails and received no response.
About a week later a woman from the State College office called and wanted to know what my “problem” was. I explained that I hoped not to have a problem and reiterated my concern and request for staff training. I also asked if pre-drill water testing had been done. By this point I had spoken with the owner of the center and she stated that the testing had not been completed yet but that she was contacted by Rex Energy (I always thought that pre-drill meant before “before drilling” and since there was a rig up on the site that was making a ton of noise I assume that it was drilling-but that point can wait). The owner had also agreed to the staff training if I could set it up. The woman on the phone took down my information and the call was over in 5 minutes.
About another week went by and I received a voice mail from Derek Smith during which he told me “his management…feels that it’s best that I call the…DEP.” I called him back and am still waiting for a response. That was May 3, 2012. I was left with little hope that he or the DEP will give me an answer or take any action that would protect my child. My wife and I were charged with the difficult decision of whether or not to remove our youngest child from the center, leaving behind her friends and teachers that she loved and that truly loved her in favor of her health and safety. This was the center that her older sister attended for 3 years and that she had been at since shortly after turning 3 months.
In some ways it was a blessing when the owner of the center called to let us know that she was closing permanently on June 15, 2012. We were no longer faced with that painful choice. It is a true shame that we as parents are being faced with decisions of this nature while the industry appears to carte blanche to force us to and that the state seems to be either unable or unwilling to protect us.