Environmental concerns shared at Greensburg’s Green Gathering | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Environmental concerns shared at Greensburg’s Green Gathering

Jeff Himler
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Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Paula Purnell (left), who chairs the Greensburg Group of 10, a local organization addressing environmental concerns, accompanies herself on guitar while Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Mark Weakland provides percussion, at the group’s Green Gathering networking event on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at Major Stokes restaurant in Greensburg.

Concern about diminished recycling options was among issues that brought about 20 people to an informal Sunday meeting of a Greensburg-based citizens environmental group.

Chaired by educator Paula Purnell of Greensburg, the Greensburg Group of 10 held its first Green Gathering networking session at Major Stokes restaurant in the city.

Sunday’s gathering, Purnell said, was meant to give members of the public “an opportunity to meet informally with environmentally-friendly people across the spectrum. They get to see what other people are doing.”

Sandy Finley of Greensburg, a local trails and parks enthusiast, listed trash as one of her primary environmental concerns. She said Americans could take a lesson from their cousins across the pond when it comes to minimizing garbage.

“I was in England last year, and you don’t get plastic bags in the store,” Finley said. “You take your bag.”

Since some local municipal garbage haulers no longer include glass containers among items they collect, Finley and other Group of 10 members are recommending that citizens take cleaned glass on their own to recycling facilities such as Bradish Glass in South Greensburg.

The Greensburg Group of 10 is the only Westmoreland County participant among 42 neighborhood groups organized in the region by the Clean Air Council, a statewide environmental advocacy group.

According to Kelly Yagatich, Southwestern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the council, the community groups are to meet monthly to learn about air quality issues, with the help of educational resources provided by the council. She said the eventual goal is for the group members to take an active role in seeking solutions for environmental concerns — through such avenues as signing petitions, writing letters and attending public meetings.

“The goal is really to educate people on a lot of these issues that they may not know about,” Yagatich said. “Hopefully, we can build a grassroots community of people who know about these issues and can advocate for cleaner air and a healthier environment.”

The Greensburg group is one of the largest associated with the Clean Air Council.

“They’ve definitely mobilized a lot of people,” Yagatich said. “They have a wide variety of people with a lot of different skill sets.”

Purnell said the Greensburg Group of 10 had its first meeting last November and has since grown beyond that number, to about 18 members who attend ongoing meetings on selected Saturdays. She said 30 more people have signed a list expressing interest in the group.

Purnell belongs to the Allegheny County-based Group Against Smog and Pollution but welcomed the opportunity to start a group focusing on environmental issues in Westmoreland County.

“I just thought I could be doing something closer to home,” she said.

Through her work as an educator, Purnell said she hopes to get more kids interested in their own communities and outdoor activities.

She said the Group of 10 has brought together members from a variety of perspectives including fishermen, master gardeners and people concerned about open burning of materials such as plastics in local municipalities.

Regionally, the Clean Air Council has been focusing much of its attention on concerns about the environmental impact of the Royal Dutch Shell cracker plant that is set to open in Beaver County and about sulfur dioxide emissions at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, which were exacerbated by a Dec. 24 fire at the facility.

The Greensburg Group of 10 has paid attention to an issue more local to Westmoreland — a late January pressure drop at CNX Gas Company’s Shaw G1 deep gas well. The problem caused it to “kill” the Washington Township site leased from the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, near the authority’s Beaver Run Reservoir.

Citizens have expressed concern about the potential impact on water quality of additional deep gas wells that have been drilled near the reservoir and about the impact on air quality when the Shaw pressure problem caused flaring — burning-off of flammable gas — at nearby conventional gas wells.

CNX has said it believes the pressure drop resulted from an isolated “casing integrity issue” about a mile underground. Spokesman Brian Aiello said CNX found no sign of adverse impact when it installed air quality monitors downwind from the affected wells and screened about 50 private water wells within a one-mile radius.

Additionally, the municipal authority has said testing at the reservoir showed no affect on water quality following the Shaw well pressure incident.

The next Green Gathering is set for 2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 4 at Major Stokes.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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