By Nicole Hennessy
Last week more than 30 Ohio environmental organizations sent Gov. John Kasich a letter asking him to sign an executive order discontinuing the practice of storing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wastewater in Ohio.
“For too long, Ohio has served as the regional dumping ground for the oil and gas industry, with more than half of the waste disposed in Ohio coming from neighboring states,” the letter read.
“As you may know, Ohio injected nearly 600 million gallons of toxic fracking waste just last year, an unprecedented amount that stands to increase further if oil and gas development expands in our region.”
The waste referred to is the byproduct of the chemical-laced concoction used to extract natural gas from underground shale deposits, a process referred to as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
As the toxic chemical benzine and untold proprietary chemicals are used in fracking, the excess fluid that comes back up after wells are drilled can never be reintroduced to the water supply and must be stored in what’s known as injection wells.
In the Youngstown area earthquakes have been linked to injection wells, and last winter as much as 20,000 gallons of brine, thought to include radioactive materials, were leaked into the Mahoning River.
These are the types of events that cause concern among activists. Still, Ohio remains lenient on drilling practices.
Among those who signed the plea to Kasich were Westshore faCT, a fracking awareness group that meets at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church twice each month and hosts various informational sessions throughout the year, and the Buckeye Forest Council (BFS).
BFS fracking coordinator Teresa Mills will wrap up Westshore faCT’s spring lecture series tomorrow, detailing Ohio’s wastewater or, as the industry refers to it, brine situation, and how it affects residents.
The Westshore area, she said, may not have the same issues as the southern and middle parts of Ohio at the current time, “but there’s always a potential.”
“With the industry running rampant in Ohio, I don’t think any community is safe from injection wells at this point.”
At last week’s faCT presentation documentary filmmaker Josh Fox spoke, drawing a crowd of about 130 people to promote his second film, “Gasland Part II.”
A Pennsylvania native who began investigating fracking in his home state, Fox later traveled the country, documenting families who’ve experienced negative effects on their land and health as a result of proximity to drilling or wastewater injection sites. And, after drawing a significant audience, he decided to continue traveling and interviewing families.
Dorothy Faller, an Olmsted Falls resident and outspoken faCT member, said that while his lecture focused on Pennsylvania, she paid close attention to the portions that mentioned wastewater, which is imported to Ohio from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Like Mills, Faller worries, “They can put the injection wells anywhere, so everybody needs to be concerned about this, and I think that’s beginning to come across.”
Currently following the development of pipelines running through communities without wells, such as Medina, and developments on the legislative side of Ohio’s gas and oil industry, Faller personally signed the letter sent to Kasich.
The letter continues like this for three pages.
Faller is unsure if or when a response will be issued, but she says she finds value in sending letters and calling legislators either way.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s lecture, she said, “The crowd that has come to our series is a dedicated group of people,” welcoming newcomers to learn more.
SIDE BAR: Buckeye Forest Council fracking coordinator Teresa Mills will host an informational session on Ohio’s waste water injection wells Oct. 24 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River as part of Westshore faCT’s lecture series. Mills’ presentation will begin at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the community.