Demand that Governor Wolf authorize a special audit of the DEP and DOC to protect the health of incarcerated people and residents in LaBelle, PA


Dozens of people are sick at State Correctional Institution Fayette and in the nearby village of LaBelle, PA. The prison and the town sit on either side of a toxic 500 acre coal ash dump operated by Matt Canestrale Contracting along the Monongahela River in Fayette County. The Human Rights Coalition and the undersigned demand that Governor Tom Wolf authorize the Pennsylvania Auditor General to conduct a special audit of both the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) regarding their handling of pollution issues and health problems among prisoners, prison staff and community members in LaBelle.

All three groups report high rates of illnesses that can be caused by exposure to toxic coal ash: respiratory problems, skin conditions, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and various forms of cancers. Water contamination caused by fracking in the area has been reported by the local water authority, Tri-County Joint Municipal Water Authority, and may also be contributing to health problems.

For years the DEP has failed to address concerns raised by community leaders, despite the Department’s own evidence, which shows that the dump and the water authority are exposing people to hazardous pollutants. Likewise the DOC has dismissed concerns about health problems raised by prison staff, prisoners and their loved ones and obstructed efforts by the Human Rights Coalition, the Abolitionist Law Center, and journalists to obtain public information about prisoner health.

We demand a combined special audit of both departments that determines if and how DEP and DOC have put the health of prisoners, prison staff, and community members at risk due to pollution from both the dump and the water supply. This audit should also determine if and how both departments have been negligent of or have attempted to hide from the public evidence of pollution and health problems. It should look at DEP permitting and enforcement actions for the dump and the water authority, as well as its handling of complaints from community members. It should also look at DOC’s decision to site SCI Fayette next to the dump, its collection and assessment of prisoner health information, and its handling of prisoner and staff complaints.

This special audit must be planned in consultation with those most impacted by the actions of both departments, prisoners and their family members, prison staff, and LaBelle community members, and it must lead to immediate action to protect their health and well-being.

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