PublicSource

Eight Facts To Know About The Shale Gas Industry’s Air Pollution

8 hours ago
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released data on air emissions from the shale gas industry in 2013.

PublicSource looked into the data and built a series of interactive charts so you can more easily explore the information.

Tax Credits Help Offset the High Cost of Adoption

Apr 20, 2015
Courtesy of Pete Rooke, via PublicSource

In 2011, the year Christi and John Rooke adopted two of their five children, the Pittsburgh couple filed for an adoption tax credit — $13,000 for each daughter who joined their family.

The couple used the $26,000 combined credit to pay off their debt, and to buy a 12-seat passenger van and a pop-up camper to take their family on cross-country adventures.

Though it may sound like a windfall, Christi Rooke said the family is strapped much of the time.

Tax Calculator: How Gov. Wolf's Budget Would Affect You In Allegheny County

Apr 13, 2015
governortomwolf / flickr

Since Gov. Tom Wolf announced his ambitious budget proposal that would rework Pennsylvania’s tax structure, you may have simultaneously heard you will be better off and worse off under his proposal.

How Accurate Are State Heroin Overdose Statistics?

Apr 9, 2015
Ben Allen / WITF

Heroin abuse has reached crisis levels in the commonwealth and across the Northeast.

But determining the full scope of the problem is proving harder than one might think.

PublicSource

Whether you’re new to the Pittsburgh region or have lived here your whole life, you probably want to know what’s in the air you’re breathing and where it’s coming from.

This map from PublicSource identifies the facilities that federal standards say are the “major sources” of industrial air pollution in Allegheny County and the amount of pollutants they are allowed to release.

Eye On The Inside: Do Cameras In Nursing Homes Protect Or Intrude?

Mar 31, 2015
Debbie McGee / PublicSource

As suddenly as he lost his ability to speak last fall, Stuart Sanderson’s connection to the world outside his Philadelphia nursing-home room was severed because of anxiety over a simple webcam.

Drug Courts At Odds With Each Other And The Feds

Mar 23, 2015
Illustration by Michelle Garrett

In Allegheny County, Judge Lester Nauhaus sees his drug court as an alternative to the carnage of the drug war.

Drugs drive crime. But locking up addicts doesn’t stop crime. Nor does it stop drug addiction.

“Nail ‘em and jail ‘em wasn’t working,” Nauhaus told PublicSource in an interview. “All it was doing was costing everybody a fortune.”

Instead of locking up defendants, drug courts allow prosecutors, public defenders, judges and others to work together to get defendants to much-needed drug treatment.

Measuring the Power of the PA Millennial Boom

Mar 16, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

This year, the Millennial generation will eclipse the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, totaling 75.3 million, according to U.S. Census data.

For our purposes, the Millennials are that broad group born between 1981 and 1997, making them between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015, as defined by the Pew Research Center.

Allegheny County Police Still Keep Many Records On Paper

Mar 9, 2015
Halle Stockton / PublicSource

For the Allegheny County Police Department, searching for details on past crimes sometimes calls for cabinet duty.

That means a team of detectives literally thumbing through paper records in old-fashioned file cabinets.

1.5 Million at Risk in PA for Crude Oil Derailment

Mar 2, 2015
Photo by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In Pennsylvania, nearly 1.5 million people are in potential danger if a train carrying crude oil derails and catches fire, according to a PublicSource analysis. That is about one in every nine Pennsylvanians.

Uncommon Compassion: Dying Offenders Seldom Released in Federal Prison System

Feb 17, 2015
Jeffrey Benzing / PublicSource

Linda Share fought for years to get her father home before he died.

Benjamin Share had been away for eight years. His kidneys were failing. He had congestive heart failure. His foot, an unnatural burgundy color, was swollen, and he had weeping sores that wouldn’t heal.

“The sores got worse and worse,” Linda said, describing her father’s deterioration in a nursing facility chosen by the prison. “I would drive to Manor Care and take home urine-stained and blood-stained clothing, his undergarments, and wash them for my daddy.”

Marcellus Life: A Native American Protest to Stop a PA Pipeline

Feb 9, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Chief Carlos Whitewolf beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth in the cold January air in Hershey, Pa.

Many of the 50 or so other protesters outside the Hershey Lodge, where national Republican leaders attended a retreat, demonstrated against issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change.

But Whitewolf, chief of the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation of Pennsylvania, was objecting to something more local. In nearby Lancaster County, it’s the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.

A Flood of Overtime for Nurses at County Nursing Homes

Feb 2, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

A veteran nursing assistant, whose job would include bathing, feeding and dressing nursing-home residents, worked an average of 80 hours a week for nearly the entire year at the Allegheny County-owned Kane Regional Centers.

For a licensed practical nurse, giving medications and tending to the wounds of 30 or more residents would be common. Does that get trickier near the end of a 12- to 16-hour shift, a norm for many of the LPNs employed by Kane?

Punchy Judy / Flickr

In 2014, heroin addiction and overdose deaths became an epidemic across the country, across the state of Pennsylvania and especially in Allegheny County.

Dr. Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center says the high rate of overdoses in southwest PA can be tied to use of prescription medicines, along with a blue collar and aging demographic.

"There was a need for pain medicines and doctor's started prescribing it and pharmaceutical companies started marketing to doctors heavily. And they were giving the message, 'This is safe, not addicting. Less than one percent of people who ever use Oxicodon ever have a problem.' That was the message from the companies. So there was a lot of prescription medicines, very heavy in our community. Then thousands of people in every town from Kittanning, to Downtown Pittsburgh, to Clarion, to Washington PA got hooked onto prescription medicines, and that led to the heroine problem."

Capretto explains that as an addiction to legal prescription opiates develops, heroin emerges as a cheaper alternative, once refills run out. But addiction is not simply about the relief of physical pain.

Capretto says he considers addiction to be a biological, psychological, social, and even spiritual disease. 

"Opioids are very good at stopping and blocking pain; physical pain, emotional pain, psychic pain... I've talked with thousands of people with addiction over the years and I never met one who started using any drug because they wanted to intentionally add more problems to their life on purpose. They're trying to solve some problem, block some pain." 

A Coordinated Effort to Cover the Complexities of Heroin Addiction

As news of the increasing number of heroin overdoses has made headlines throughout Pennsylvania, newsrooms are making a coordinated effort to cover the most important angles of this public health crisis.

Sharon Walsh, editor of the investigative journalism organization PublicSource, has been compiling the work of PA media outlets that have been reporting on the heroin problem.

Agency Battling Drug Crisis Has a Big Job, But Little State Money

Jan 12, 2015

If officials are tuned in to the statewide heroin crisis that has killed thousands of Pennsylvanians, they apparently think it’s a cheap fix.

After six years of inaction, in 2010 the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, formerly a modest bureau tucked into the Department of Health.

Then they piled on a huge workload and gave it little money.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

About a dozen St. Marys officials, outfitted with baggy blue jumpsuits, earplugs and white plastic hard hats, recently visited a Seneca Resources well pad on a wooded hilltop to see what fracking is all about.

This part of Pennsylvania, about 120 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Elk County, has been relatively untouched by shale drilling. But people see it coming in two test wells Seneca has there now, with more wells in the future.

Holly: One Face of the National Heroin Crisis

Nov 24, 2014
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

For Holly Wright, heroin was bliss.

It was cheap, and it was everywhere. She craved the rush of energy that came with the high, but soon she needed the drug just to get out of bed and feed her children without feeling dopesick.

But last year, she was confronted with a choice. She could keep her addiction and lose Dani, then 2, and her older brother Brayden, then 6. Or she could get treatment and start clean with her family.

By then, heroin had already taken her job and her money. And she didn’t realize the damage it had done to her children.

Life Means Death For Thousands Of PA Prisoners

Oct 21, 2014
Illustration by Anita Dufalla / PublicSource

Death in prison is not rare.

In Pennsylvania, one in 10 inmates is sentenced to life in prison. Because state law gives them no possibility of parole, nearly all of more than 5,300 inmates serving life terms will eventually die inside prison walls.

“They have no choice but to age and die in place,” said Julia Hall, a criminal justice professor and gerontologist at Drexel University.

Molly Duerig / PublicSource

Emergency response officials are currently assessing the risks that trains carrying millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil pose to residents in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Raymond DeMichiei, deputy director of Pittsburgh’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, is overseeing that appraisal.

“We don't want people to have a false sense of security,” he said. “Yes, there is a risk. [But] we're managing the risk.”

Jailhouse Poets Find Voice in Writing Course

Aug 24, 2014
Molly Duerig / PublicSource

Brother Umar wears ketchup-colored jail garb. He’s been locked up for 14 months, but his words earn him snaps as if he’s at a hipster coffee shop.

“For good Abel can’t help but to sacrifice his life to this ‘caine that’s so fatal,” he recites, part preacher, part emcee. Then, conversationally: “That’s Cain and Abel.”

Umar, whose real name is Chris Westbrooks Jr., is in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting trial on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault in connection with a 2013 shooting in Duquesne.

Crude Oil Train Derailment Concerns in Pittsburgh

Aug 19, 2014
Elias Schewel / Flickr

More than 40 percent of Pittsburgh's residents live in areas that would be at risk if a train carrying crude oil through the city derails and catches fire.

WESA content partner PublicSource created a map tracking the route of the rail lines known to carry crude oil in the city.

Reporter Natasha Khan says trains are more common in the city and its neighborhoods than people may realize. She also says that city officials are not prepared to handle a large scale accident, such as the one in Quebec last year.

Thousands of Disabled Workers Legally Paid Sub-Minimum Wage

Jul 31, 2014
Martha Rial / PublicSource

About 13,000 disabled Pennsylvania workers are being paid far below minimum wage, earning an average of $2.40 an hour in legal sub-minimum wages, according to a recent PublicSource article by Halle Stockton.

Does this practice provide opportunities for people who wouldn't otherwise have a job? Or does it exploit those who could work for minimum wage?

Stockton says these workers are legally paid sub-minimum wages and are supervised by mostly non-disabled workers. Stockton says the working conditions can range from work programs on beautiful campuses, to those of industrial settings.

No matter the conditions, however, Stockton says the pay is based on “pieces.”

“This is all piecework. You get paid for every box of paper you shred; you get paid twenty cents. Or every jewelry box, eleven cents. So, these supervisors are watching and recording that. This person completed three this hour, or completed four, and that’s what translates into your paycheck.”

Curtis Decker is the Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network. He says people don’t apply for jobs they don’t have the skill set for. Decker does not approve of these sub-minimum wage programs but still believes people need the training so they can realize their greater potential.

Thousands of Disabled Workers in PA Paid Far Below Minimum Wage

Jul 27, 2014
Martha Rial / PublicSource

About 13,000 disabled Pennsylvanians are earning an average of $2.40 an hour in a legal use of subminimum wages.

The majority work almost solely with other disabled people, in a world tucked away from the mainstream labor market.

They’re given menial tasks, like folding boxes, shredding paper or packing mail inserts.

Since 1986, there has been no limit to how little they can be paid. And even the federal government, which issues the certificates that allow employers to pay subminimum wages, doesn’t track the hourly earnings of the workers.

Corbett Has Spent $1.7 Million on TV Ads Since the Primary

Jul 24, 2014
Pennsylvania National Guard, Tom Wolf via Flickr

Gov. Tom Corbett, trailing opponent Tom Wolf by 20 to 25 points in the polls, has poured $1.66 million into television ads blanketing the state in July, according to FCC reports.

That’s more than one-third of the $4.8 million in campaign funds Corbett had left over from the primary.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll of registered voters in late June showed Corbett, a Republican, trailing Democrat Wolf 47 percent to 25 percent.

Wolf has spent no money on ads this month.

What You Should Know About Crude Oil On Trains Coming Through PA

Jul 13, 2014
Association of American Railroads; graphic: Natasha Khan and Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

More trains carrying crude oil to East Coast refineries mean a greater risk of accidents. Derailments in Pennsylvania and throughout the country are a signal to some that an accident could be disastrous.

Why is more crude oil moving through Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania Police Fail To Fingerprint Thousands Of Suspected Criminals

Jul 6, 2014
Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter / Via PublicSource

In 2013, 30,000 suspected criminals whose charges included sex crimes, assaults and murder were not fingerprinted by Pennsylvania police, according to state records.

State law requires that suspected offenders be fingerprinted within 48 hours of arrest.

So, if thousands of people aren’t getting fingerprinted, whose fault is it?

“It’s up to the police to do it. It’s a mandatory function. It’s not anybody else’s job but the arresting department,” said Eric Radnovich, director of the Bureau of Justice Services at the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

Could Drones Make The Energy Business Safer?

Jun 11, 2014
Photo courtesy of Identified Technologies

Small, high-tech drones are being used to make movies, shoot photos for the media and find sick or diseased crops in farm fields across the country — even though the government restricts commercial use.

Now, some are saying that drones could make operations safer in an industry Pennsylvania knows well: Energy.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, could be used in oil and gas operations for anything that is “dangerous or dirty to do by people,” said Michael Blades, who analyzes the drone industry for the global research firm Frost & Sullivan.

For This Pittsburgh Football Coach, There's A Passion For The Game

May 25, 2014
Martha Rial / PublicSource

Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson doesn’t yell or bark like a football coach.

Bulky defenders suited out in black and gold crouch on three points while he sputters a snap count, trying to get them to jump offside.

“Hut. Hut. Go, Joei. Hut.”

With his hefty frame bent low, he’ll mimic a snap, and the defenders power out of their stances.

This is his defensive line.

“Do not tackle the coach,” says Hutch, 60, standing up from his crouch and smirking. “You do not tackle the coach.”

Inspection Records For PA Amusement Parks Now Online

May 23, 2014
Fen Labalme / flickr

Before someone gets strapped into the Storm Runner at Hershey Park or feels their stomach drop on Kennywood’s Phantom's Revenge this Memorial Day weekend, they’ll be able to go online to check when the rides were last inspected.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has launched a website that allows any amusement park goer to see whether a ride has recently been inspected.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Pastor Lee Dreyer helps organize the Water for Woodlands water bank at White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church in Renfrew, Pa.

The church distributes water to 34 families whose wells went bad around the time fracking started in the region. The coincidence can't be proven but residents said they can tell by taste, smell, color and skin reaction that their water hasn't been right.

Read more of this story at the website of our partner PublicSource.

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