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Drilling Under Schools, Parks Working In Parts Of Washington Co.

AVELLA (KDKA) -- When the Mars School Board voted the idea down, it drew applause.

"As a parent of a child of this school district, it mattered a lot that they said no to protect the health and welfare of my child," said William Allison, a parent.

Drilling under Deer Lakes Park is meeting with stiff opposition, too.

"I've seen ramifications of toxins in our environment," said Carrie White, who is opposed to park drilling.

But in Washington County's Cross Creek Park, fishing for bluegills and crappies has never been better, even though there's drilling around in and under the park.

KDKA's Andy Sheehan: "So, you're not worried about fishing?"

Dave Ellis: "No, not now. We researched it. We've done our due diligence, and we just don't see the downside."

Outside of truck traffic and a minor diesel spill, Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi says Cross Creek has felt no environmental impact.

But the county has reaped $11 million from leases and royalties.

"What it's done is it allows us to put that many back into these parks," said Maggi. "New docks, bike trails, nature trail pavilions."

Drilling is even more prevalent around Washington County's schools. Fort Cherry is one of six county school districts that allows drilling underneath its buildings.

In Avella, school administrators say their lease agreements haven't caused any environmental problems.

We haven't seen any impact at all," said Dr. Janell Logue-Belden, the superintendent of the Avella School District.

The district says allowing off-site drillers to frack a mile and half below school property was a no-brainier, especially with a leasing bonus of more than $100,000 and several thousand dollars in royalties every month.

Dr. Logue-Belden: "It means we don't have to crimp and crush numbers. It means we can have more educational supplies, more technology in the schools, which has been a focus of our district.

Sheehan: "So, it's been a good thing?"

Dr. Logue-Belden: "It's a very good thing financially, yes."

But while Washington County has embraced fracking, people in Allegheny and Butler counties have been more resistant. And even some in Washington County continue to have their doubts.

"As long as the ecosystem stays the same, the fishing will be good; but if you interfere, we're going to have some problems down the road," said Bill Chandler, a fisherman. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but somewhere down the road, we're going to have some problems."

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