Pennsylvania Department of Health officials said they’ve improved the process for dealing with health-related complaints from residents near Marcellus Shale drilling operations.

Last month, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported that two former state health officials were told not to respond to people who complained about health concerns related to fracking.

The department denied that they dealt with health complaints incorrectly, but released a list of improvements on Monday.

The department said it has:

  • Provided information on how to file an environmental health complaint through various partners throughout the state, including targeted outreach to the medical community, who are often the first to learn of environmental health concerns;

  • Enhanced the environmental health section of the department’s website with emphasis on accessibility and ease of navigation;

  • Instituted a written letter response policy for all environmental health concerns to better track and document correspondence that takes place between the department and those who express concerns; and

  • Committed to better coordination and communication with the Department of Environmental Protection when dealing with complaints involving both agencies as well as when complaints need to be transferred from one agency to another.

Despite the changes, environmental groups have called on the state to conduct an investigation into the department’s past practices.

It’s unclear whether the state’s auditor general will conduct an investigation, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania.

“At this time, we are not looking to audit the Department of Health on this issue,” said Susan Woods, a spokeswoman for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale’s office recently completed an audit faulting the state Department of Environmental Protection for mishandling public complaints about water contamination and unconventional shale development.

Woods said the Auditor General’s office will continue to ‘monitor what goes on’ at the Department of Health.

PublicSource has written about calls from state physicians and environmental groups for the state to better track the health impacts believed to be related to fracking and to create a health registry.

Reach Natasha Khan at 412-315-0261 or

This fact-based local reporting drives impact and creates change. Help power that impact.

James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” PublicSource exists to help the Pittsburgh region face its realities and create opportunities for change. When we shine a light on inequity in our region, like the “completely unacceptable” conditions in low-income housing in McKeesport, things change. When we ask questions about policymakers’ decisions, like how Allegheny County is handling COVID-19 safety for its employees, things change. When we push for transparency on issues that affect the public, like in the use of facial recognition software by Pittsburgh police, things change.

It takes a lot of time, skill and resources to produce journalism like this. Our stories are always made available for free so that they can benefit the most people, regardless of ability to pay. But as an independent, nonprofit newsroom, we count on donations from our readers to support this crucial work. Can you make a contribution of any amount (or better yet, set up a recurring monthly gift) to help ensure we can continue to report on what matters and tell stories for a better Pittsburgh?

Natasha is PublicSource's creative director. She runs the organizations visuals team, edits and produces interactive graphics, data visualizations and web packages for PublicSource. She manages the website...