A local state lawmaker has criticized the state Department of Environmental Protection this week after the agency asked him to file a Right to Know request for information pertaining to air testing at a health facility in the Burgettstown area—information the legislator said was, at one point, promised to be made readily available to him.
, D-, filed the request with the agency last week after he said they declined to release 400 pages of raw data from its June 5 testing at Cornerstone Care's Community Medical and Dental Plaza.
In an email exchange with DEP, White said he was first told the information would be personally delivered to his Harrisburg office only to receive a second email a short time later informing him that more analysis of the information would be needed—and that the agency suggested he make a formal Right to Know request for the data.
“John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said that while the DEP wants to double-check its tests and put the data in context, nothing is expected to show up that hasn't already been reported. Even with the latest sensitive air testing, the DEP was unable to determine why a strong odor resulted in the health center having to be evacuated three times since March,” the Observer-Reporter indicated in its Wednesday edition.
The paper continued: “The only mystery was the compound methyl isobutyl ketone, also known as MIBK, which is a solvent used in a variety of ways. MIBK registered on the spectrometer as a two-minute spike, but officials have no idea about its source. Poister said it was a relatively small concentration and not enough to have resulted in people having to evacuate the building.”
Reached Wednesday afternoon, White said he is confounded by DEP's refusal to release the info, adding that it was the first time he had to file a Right to Know request through a state agency during his tenure as a state representative.
"It doesn't make any sense. The DEP's story on what they have or haven't found at Cornerstorn has shifted quite a bit over the last few weeks," he said Wednesday afternoon. "It went from a 'sniff test' that yielded nothing, to a thorough test that did yield something, but now we're being told there's nothing to worry about. They say they found a compound that could cause the problem, but then they say it isn't the cause of the problem."
"We don't need more analysis we need to let the facts speak for themselves," the legislator said. "That's why DEP must release the data."
Under the state's Right to Know Act, state agencies have five business days to initially respond to open records requests. In White's case, a response from DEP would be expected by Friday.
If he doesn't hear back from the DEP or the agency doesn't release the documentation?
"I'll do what I have to do to get the information," he said. "I'm simply holding the DEP to the same standard I was held to in high school chemistry class. In order to get credit, you have to show your work."
Editor's Note: The non-profit has since moved its operations to McMurray, White said—adding that it must find another location by June 30.