Stories from IUP Student Scholars: Impacts on Health and Hearing from Hydraulic Fracking

Posted on 3/23/2015 8:10:47 PM

IUP Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology student Emily Romberger’s research in hearing loss and health issues near fracking sites continues this year as she reaches out to new communities to study this under researched project.

Emily RombergerRomberger’s research, titled “Impacts on Health and Hearing from Hydraulic Fracking,” won the Dean’s Award for Excellence Award in last year’s Undergraduate Scholars Forum.

Romberger, along with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, spent several months last year visiting the town of Finleyville near Washington, Pa., to investigate whether residents had been experiencing any hearing or health affects caused by the vibrations and noise cause by a nearby fracking site. While there has been research on public health concerns over possible groundwater contamination and or air emissions, no prior research had been conducted on the health risks related to the ongoing noise, she said.

Sound level meters were used during the research project to measure the amount of noise during both the vertical and horizontal drilling phases of fracking. Results during both phases showed that noise levels were close to being considered a health risk, she said. Unfortunately, because of weather conditions Romberger wasn’t able to visit the town in January during the final, shorter phase of hydraulic fracturing when the noise would be louder and more explosive. Now that the Finleyville fracking project is completed, she will continue her research in other communities in Washington County. There are over 6,000 active fracking sites in Pennsylvania.

Last year, she also distributed anonymous surveys to residents to find out whether they felt the constant noise was adversely affecting their hearing overall health. Through the surveys, one man divulged that he has seen a doctor because he felt the drilling had caused his increase in blood pressure and a family said the noise had forced them to move into their summer home.

Romberger also recently presented her research for the Undergraduate Research at the Capital event in Harrisburg.

Learn more about Romberger’s research and see diverse research by IUP students at the Undergraduate Scholars Forum on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, and at the Graduate Scholars Forum on Wednesday, April 8.