PublicSource

PublicSource is an independent, nonprofit news group that focuses on original investigative reporting about critical issues facing Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region. It was launched to undertake in-depth reporting in the public interest.

​PublicSource is a content partner of 90.5 WESA.

More about PublicSource here.

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Environment & Energy
12:40 pm
Sun July 13, 2014

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

Credit 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?

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Public Safety
2:06 pm
Sun July 6, 2014

Pennsylvania Police Fail To Fingerprint Thousands Of Suspected Criminals

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Richard Hunter tries to lift a fingerprint from the front door of Community Bank in Cecil Township, Washington County, shortly after the bank was robbed in July 2009.
Credit 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.

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Energy
11:56 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Could Drones Make The Energy Business Safer?

Some say drones could make operations safer in the state's energy industry.
Credit 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.

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Community
1:35 pm
Sun May 25, 2014

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

Coach Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson conducts drills with his defensive line during Pittsburgh Passion practice at George K. Cupples Stadium on the South Side.
Credit 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.”

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Public Safety
5:20 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Inspection Records For PA Amusement Parks Now Online

The Phantom's Revenge at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.
Credit 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.

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Video
11:10 am
Tue May 13, 2014

At The Water Bank, A Sense Of Ministry

Credit 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.

Environment & Energy
11:59 am
Wed April 30, 2014

With No Health Registry, PA Doesn’t Know The Impact Of Fracking On Health

After more than five years and about 6,000 wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale boom, public-health experts say the need to collect information near fracking operations in Pennsylvania is urgent.

A health registry could show trends of illnesses, collect data and potentially answer the question of whether fracking is safe — a debate currently characterized by emotional arguments with little reliable information.

How will anyone in the state know the possible health impacts of hydraulic fracturing unless information is collected?

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Environment & Energy
10:26 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Bluegrass Pipeline Project Comes To A Halt

Penny Greathouse, on her 700-acre cattle farm in Stamping Ground, Ky., in late October.
Credit Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Developers of a multi-state pipeline project, which has stirred controversy over the past year in Kentucky, announced Monday they have suspended all investment in the project indefinitely.

Williams Co., a Tulsa, Okla.-based company, said it has stopped investing in the Bluegrass Pipeline “primarily in response to an insufficient level of firm customer commitments.”

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Pennsylvania
8:13 am
Sun April 6, 2014

Dispute Over Disabled Man's Care Magnifies Guardianship’s Complexities

Nancy Pantoni is contesting decisions made by a court-appointed guardian for her disabled son, Dominic. He is pictured here, on the left, at a dinner with his mother and brother, Vince, about five years ago.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Rarely is there so much tension — or so much at stake — around giving someone hope for a family reunion as in the case of Dominic Pantoni.

Every month, Dominic intently waits at the door of his group home for his mother to arrive, and he immediately asks her, “When’s the next hearing?”

A court hearing, in Dominic's eyes, means going home, or at least leaving a place that he calls prison, said his mother, Nancy Pantoni. She has been trying since 2010 to change legal guardianship of her 27-year-old son, who has intense special needs because of a genetic disorder.

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Environment & Energy
11:40 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Citing Safety Concerns, Officials Push For Improvements To Crude Oil 'Clunkers'

Flames continue to burn a day after a Norfolk Southern train derailed on Oct. 21, 2006, in New Brighton, Pa.
Credit ucy Schaly / Beaver County Times via PublicSource

Walking with his daughter from a Friday night football game in New Brighton, Pa., Fire Chief Jeffrey Bolland heard what sounded like a jet overhead and saw an orange glow in the distance.

Twenty-three rail tank cars of ethanol derailed on a bridge above the Beaver River on that night in 2006, setting off an explosion that burned for 48 hours. Some of the black, torpedo-shaped cars tumbled into the river.

No one was injured, but 150 people were evacuated and a nearly multi-million dollar cleanup ensued in the city about 30 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh.

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Pennsylvania
12:26 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Under the Keystone: A Veteran's Progress

Earl Granville and his twin brother Joseph enlisted in the National Guard in 2000 and were deployed to Bosnia and Iraq together. In 2008, on Earl's third deployment to Afghanistan, a truck he was riding in hit a roadside bomb. His legs were blown apart.
Jake Danna Stevens Scranton Times-Tribune, via PublicSource

Earl Granville, of Scranton, Pa., is the second person featured in Under the Keystone, a new collaborative series from our content partner PublicSource. A veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan and lost a brother to PTSD, Granville is now studying mental health counseling so he can help veterans and others who have come through difficult situations.

Prisons
12:38 pm
Sun March 2, 2014

More Than 81,000 Children Have a Parent in Prison in PA

Kayla Bowyer, who was paired with a mentor through Amachi Pittsburgh because her mother was incarcerated, now works for the organization.
Credit Emily DeMarco / PublicSource

When she was a baby, Kayla Bowyer of Pittsburgh was adopted by her grandparents because her mother was in and out of Allegheny County Jail.

Her grandfather died when she was 10 and her ‘Grams' had to go to work to support Bowyer, her younger brother and three cousins.
 

Though the presence of adults in her home changed, she was not alone.

In 2004, she and her brother were matched with Yolanda and Ron Bennett through Amachi Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that pairs mentors with children of an incarcerated parent.

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Under the Keystone
8:00 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Photos: Meet Joe Bonadio, Steep Street Music Man

Credit Michael Novara

Welcome to a new PublicSource feature, Under the Keystone, that will feature profiles of interesting people throughout the state.

We have an idea that a series of photos and videos of Pennsylvania people might actually help bring the state together and help readers understand what a variety of enthralling and disparate personalities live here.

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Community
10:23 am
Sun January 26, 2014

Millvale Couple Lives with Love and Disability

Bob and Tina Norris exchange the sign of peace during Mass at Holy Spirit Church in Millvale.
Credit Martha Rial / PublicSource

MILLVALE — Bob Norris zips down the bus’s metal ramp in his motorized Steelers wheelchair as his wife, Tina, emerges with a jolting gait.

Time for grocery shopping.

Her slender frame askew but confident, Tina marches through the Giant Eagle with a list of foods and prices on her mind.

Bob lingers in the aisles, hoping to chat up the friendly store manager. His slurred speech doesn’t prevent him from making new friends.

Tina traps a loaf of bread with the side of one hand and a curled wrist while Bob holds open a reusable grocery bag.

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PublicSource
10:51 am
Sun December 22, 2013

A New Pipeline From PA Fracking Fields Is Stirring Controversy in the Bluegrass State

Nolen Boone's family has owned his 120-acre farm in New Haven, Ky., for generations. Boone crawls around a cave that spiders for a mile under his property and that of two of his neighbors.
Credit Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The land agent first came knocking on Vivian and Dean House’s door in July. They sat on the patio of the retired couple’s 85-acre farm in this Central Kentucky town and chatted.

The guy was friendly, the kind of guy Dean could talk to about fishing.

He put the couple at ease and told them his company was interested in running a pipeline through their land. They were later offered more than $165,000 to sign easements.

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Military
12:26 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

As Armed Forces Scale Back, PA Young People Often Disappointed

Recruiters for the U.S. Marines canvass shopping plazas, high schools and job fairs for potential soldiers.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

An all-honors student and varsity soccer player, Luc LaChance could have had his pick of colleges when he left Slippery Rock High School in Butler County.

Instead, he chose to enlist with the U.S. Marines, where he will be trained as an infantryman — what the 17-year-old describes as “the common soldier.”

Eric Enslow, a 25-year-old Shaler Township resident with a master’s degree, joined the Navy after an exhaustive search for teaching jobs in Southwest Pennsylvania. His choice in the military was an intelligence job, which he was denied because of student-loan debt.

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Government & Politics
12:24 pm
Sun November 24, 2013

PA’s Hate-Crime Law Still Leaves Many Groups Out

Jane, 59, was born a man but completed her transition from male to female in rural Pennsylvania about two years ago.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Jane’s whole life has been like one long hate crime.

As a teenager, her classmates beat her to a pulp because she shaved her legs. Her family believed that praying would cure what the belt didn’t.

Jane was born a man. Today, she is a woman.

Jane, a transgender woman, asked PublicSource not to use her name because of fear that she might be targeted. She completed her transition from male to female in rural Pennsylvania about two years ago.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:45 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Transitioning to a New Generation of Playgrounds

Playgrounds made or reformed after March 15 of this past year are required to make changes to be more accessible for children with disabilities.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Narrow slides and flimsy swings are what most people think of when they hear the word playground. But based on a 2010 court ruling, those trademarks of the past are changing. The US Department of Justice made access to play areas a civil right under the Americans with Disabilities Act and new standards took effect last year.

Public Source Reporter Halle Stockton reports that the playgrounds that are required to make these changes are new or majorly reformed playgrounds that began modifications after March 15.

But many playgrounds have already altered their equipment to fit the needs of all children. Some of these changes include a smooth ground surface that's usually rubberized to prevent injuries. You'll also find play structures with ramps along with wide pathways so that children on wheelchairs or a cane can maneuver throughout. The swings also have “rollercoaster seats” to provide back support for children with low muscle tone.

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Community
9:55 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Playgrounds Unwelcoming to Disabled Children

John Buss lifts his daughter, Missy, 9, from her wheelchair to the accessible swing at The Children’s Institute Playground in Squirrel Hill. The Institute serves disabled children, and its playground is a model of accessibility.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Missy Buss, a 9-year-old who can’t walk or talk, endures a 45-minute drive to the closest swing that will accommodate a wheelchair -- a treat that relaxes her shoulders and coaxes a smile.

Her mom, Wendy Grossman, thinks there would be more friends around the house if a playground near their Tarentum home allowed Missy to play alongside others.

Cheryl Dennis of Squirrel Hill talks about “the coolest” playground in the Pittsburgh area, but it’s a place she can’t take her son, Spencer, to play with his sisters because he has balance and coordination problems.

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Transportation
11:40 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Most Port Authority Pay Stations Faring Well, PublicSource Survey Finds

Fifty-nine pay stations have been installed in Allegheny County since 2012. One of the machines at the East Busway's Negley Station did not print receipts during a recent field test.
Credit Emily DeMarco / PublicSource

Allegheny County’s 59 new pay stations at light-rail platforms and bus stops have been performing well, with the exception of some along the East Busway.

PublicSource recently tested 54 of the pay stations operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and found few problems with the machines along the West Busway and light-rail lines. But nine of the 14 machines along the East Busway had one or more deficiencies.

Half of the East Busway’s machines could not print receipts. One didn't accept coins. Four of the machines’ robotic voices were broken.

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PublicSource
8:01 am
Wed August 14, 2013

PA’s Regulation of Amusement Parks Falls Short in Inspections, Enforcement

Permanent parks and water parks are required to file ride inspection reports every 30 days while they are open to the public. PublicSource analyzed reports provided by state regulators of the 117 permanent parks and water parks that were operating in Pennsylvania in 2012.
Credit Alexandra Kanik / PublicSource

Pennsylvania has more amusement park rides than any other state, with 9,300 registered rides. And its parks are unmatched in safety, Gov. Tom Corbett said in a June press release, because of the state’s rigorous ride-inspection program.

But a PublicSource investigation shows that the state agency that oversees amusement parks doesn’t track the safety inspection reports that parks are required by law to file each month they are open.

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Pennsylvania
9:00 am
Sun August 4, 2013

As PA Ages, the State Examines Guardianships and Abuse

Norma shuffles through family photos of her mother, whom she has been unable to see since last Christmas.
Credit Halle Stockton / Public Source

Norma Carpenter, a nurse and school board member, visited her 82-year-old mother regularly at a personal care home in Indiana County. The two would walk hand in hand through the home, stopping to hug each other. 

Then, in October 2012, Norma was banned from visiting or calling her mother, Mary Little, who has dementia. Her visits, she was told, left her mother sad and depressed.

In December, Norma discovered that her mother had been moved nearly 100 miles away to a Fayette County nursing home.

All of these decisions were made by a court-appointed guardian.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:19 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Speaking Volumes on Essential Pittsburgh: Leah Samuel

Investigative reporter Leah Samuel says journalists would do well to emulate the curiosity of children.
Credit PublicSource

Freelance reporter Leah Samuel writes about social and environmental issues for PublicSource and others. As a journalist, and as a reader, she finds the lessons of history are best learned from the margins.

Essential Pittsburgh
4:34 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

Donora Plant Houses Huge Volumes of Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer

Credit Martha Rial / PublicSource

After 30 tons of fertilizer detonated in West, Texas last April, investigators are looking into the cause of the explosion that killed fifteen people, including twelve firefighters and emergency responders.  PublicSource reporter Bill Heltzel has been investigating chemical plant Dyno Nobel in Donora, PA, and gauging the town’s understanding of hazardous substance safety.  United Steel Workers safety officer Kim Nibarger represents union workers at the plant.

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PublicSource
3:30 am
Sun July 21, 2013

Explosives Maker In PA Has 400 Times More Ammonia Than West, Texas, Plant

Rob Sickles with his son Spencer, 3, on the street between his home and the Dyno Nobel plant in Donora.
Credit Martha Rial

On April 17, when 30 tons of fertilizer detonated in West, Texas, a shock wave traveling faster than the speed of sound crushed homes. Windows shattered seven miles away. The United States Geological Survey recorded a 2.1 magnitude tremor from the blast.
 
Fifteen people died, 12 of them firefighters and emergency responders, and 200 were injured.

The same chemical that blew up West — ammonium nitrate — is manufactured in Donora, Pa., 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

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