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Environmentalists worry about fracking waste
An independent test finds cacinogens in waste water; officials say that's no surprise

Bill Cohen
In The Region:

Environmental activists in Athens County say dangerous chemicals are being injected deep into the earth in the Southeast region of the state, and they’re worried that the same thing is happening at dozens of other wells. Officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources say there’s nothing to worry about. Statehouse correspondent Bill Cohen reports.

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“Madeline Fitch says, since state officials won’t reveal what’s in the drilling brine being injected in an Athens county disposal well, she got some tested herself and found radioactivity, plus—

‘…high levels of barium are associated with organ failure, and both toluene and arsenic are highly carcinogenic.’

No news there, responds the natural resources department. Spokesman Carlo LoParo says of course fracking waste is dangerous.

‘That’s why the federal government mandates that they be disposed of 8,000 feet below impermeable rock.’

LoParo adds, for 30 years, Ohio has disposed of drilling waste the way the feds have mandated, and Ohio has had no cases of drinking water contamination.”

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“Activists from Ohio’s Appalachian region trekked to Columbus so they could stand near the Capitol building and unveil what they said were the results of a test of brine water being injected into one Athens County disposal well.

‘The particles found in the sample indicate elevated levels of radioactivity, and have been linked to lung cancer; high levels of barium are associated with organ failure; and both toluene and arsenic are highly carcinogenic.’

That was Madeline Fitch, an activist who recently protested fracking by chaining herself to equipment near a waste water disposal well in Athens. In Columbus, she was joined by Alecia Young, a community organizer. Young charged that natural resources officials refuse to test waste water from fracking that’s trucked here for disposal from other states. She hinted if the waste going into the Athens County well has such dangerous material, similar heath threats could be being dumped in other wells across Ohio.

‘There are 190 currently; there are 170 that are active’

‘Is there any evidence that any of those wells are receiving waste water that you think should be described as hazardous, and therefore shouldn’t go down them?’

‘Well, see, that’s the problem: There aren’t enough inspectors, and all the burden is going on citizens to try and monitor this, and none of us signed on for this.’

There’s basically nothing new here, says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Spokesman Carlo LoParo says of course waste bring from fracking has danger stuff.

‘We know these materials are hazardous materials in and of themselves. That’s why the federal government mandates that they be disposed of 8,000 feet below impermeable rock. And we do that quite efficiently in Ohio. We’ve done that safely since 1983. Since the program was started in Ohio, we have had not one instance of groundwater contamination.’

LaParo says much of this is a federal issue Ohio cannot change.

‘Until the US EPA, currently run by the Obama admin, changes its guidelines for what can be placed into these wells, all we can do is add additional regulations, which we have done, to make sure the wells are constructed properly, to make sure they’re inspected at critical stages of construction, to make sure that everything that goes into that well goes into that well properly, which is what we’ve done.’

The Appalachian region environmentalists remain frustrated. Again, Alecia Young:

‘I found that we are getting about 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s waste, we’re getting the majority of West Virginia’s, we are seeing trucks coming up from Texas, and we have no idea what’s in them.’”

Listener Comments:

Your reporting language is suspect, in light of the facts. There is no need to frame your initial statement with , "Environmental Activists say ...." How about simply reporting the fact "Chemicals are being injected deep into the earth."

Likewise you start the second paragraph with “Madeline Fitch says..." Have the journalistic accuracy to state "The ODNR has not tested tracking wastewater and has not reported to the public what is in it" rather than frame it only as a polar they-said-they-said debate.

Your journalism is weak and sloppy. I expect more from my public radio station!

Posted by: E. Ramsey (Oberlin) on July 3, 2012 9:07AM
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