By Nicole Hennessy
While Teresa Mills, fracking coordinator for the Buckeye Forest Council and Ohio children’s health organizer for the Center for Health Environment and Justice (CHEJ), prepared her presentation on Oct. 24, attendees found their seats.
“I thought this place would be packed,” a man commented to his wife.
“Me, too,” she replied, looking around at the small crowd gathered in the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church.
Beginning her lecture on Class II injection wells in Ohio and environmental activists’ attempts to ban them, Mills spoke without going through her slides at first, her passion worn from constant repetition of statistics regarding the consequences of storing toxic waste in injection wells.
Currently, all six counties surrounding Cuyahoga County have injection wells designed to store the chemical-laced byproduct of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Referred to as brine, fracking fluid or waste water, this byproduct can never be reintroduced to public water supplies. Activists fear accidental contamination is a threat, as well as the inclusion of counties like Cuyahoga to the list of those currently storing the waste.
Activists like Mills have proposed a statewide ban on Class II injection wells for years, something Cincinnati accomplished earlier this year. But so far, many legislators have not been receptive to the suggestion.
Quickly explaining a few of the slides she’d prepared, Mills pointed out statewide cases of leaks, tearing up thinking about the children being affected.
As many of the chemicals used in fracking are undisclosed due to their proprietary status, it remains unclear the extent of their negative effects on humans, water supplies or animals. Some of the chemicals that have been identified in both the drilling and storage processes include arsenic, barium, strontium and radioactive compounds.
Adding to the concern is the fact that the oil and gas industry is exempt from portions of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
The CHEJ estimated that in 2012 Ohio’s injection wells accepted almost 588,000,000 gallons of waste, nearly 60 percent of that coming from other states, such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“Many existing Class II wells are old production wells that do not even meet the current inadequate state standards for injection,” according to a handout citing this and other facts and statistics, most of which Mills repeated in her lecture, talking slowly and explaining the intricacies of drilling and storage procedures and equipment.
For example, in reference to drilling there is a minimum acreage on which a well must be located, but for an injection well, “there is no minimum acreage, so if you have an acre of land, you can put an injection well on it,” Mills added, as long as it’s 100 feet from a residence, school, church or public building.
Clarifying that this effort to ban Class II wells is not an effort to disable the oil and gas industry, she said the message they are sending policymakers on this issue is, “Deal with your own waste; stop bringing it to Ohio.”
After the lecture, Lakewood resident Luis Arocho agreed with that line of thinking.
Still learning about the issue of fracking, he said his concern isn’t so much based on the actual location of these activities, but it’s for the welfare of the general populace.
“My biggest gripe is with federal agencies that really do not protect citizens,” he said. “In this situation … my goal is to gather information and present it to people I care about.”
Urging attendees to do the same, Mills urged the crowd to “think statewide, but act locally.”
“Don’t expect a small group of citizens to carry the load,” she said.