DARKE COUNTY -The Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition (WOFAC) held a public forum on Tuesday entitled, “Toxic Truth,” which aimed to inform and dissuade the public of contemporary hydraulic fracturing.
WOFAC, led by local community members Jan Teaford, Susan Spille and Rita McCans, serves as a grassroots movement to raise awareness of fracking and fracking waste in an effort to protect regional water, air, soil and the public’s health.
Fracking typically involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into bedrock formations in an effort to fracture geological structures and extract oil and gas. WOFAC and other groups are particularly concerned with the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale formations, which include shale gas, tight gas and coal bed methane associated with hydraulic fracturing and are located throughout parts of Ohio.
The Greenville forum was held in Memorial Hall, and featured three guest speakers from varying fields and specializations related to the fracking industry.
Joe Curry, a professional water well driller from Michigan and member of the Michigan Groundwater Association, began by emphasizing the importance of clean, dependable municipal well and groundwater.
He then informed the audience of fracking’s rapid technological progression, and the fact that fracking today looks very little like the practices of 50 years ago. In fact, according to Curry, modern day fracking utilizes more than 20 times the water pressure of original fracking, which in his opinion has the potential to cause earthquakes.
“From what I’ve seen, heard and read, it is telling me that not only Michigan, but Ohio has irresponsibly allowed the gas and oil exploration of our states without fully understanding and regulating the entire process of slickwater hydraulic processing, or the uniquely delicate geological makeup of Michigan, Ohio and our Great Lakes Basin.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, of more than 150,000 Class II injection wells in the United States, roughly 40,000 are waste fluid disposal wells for oil and gas operations, however only a small fraction of these disposal wells have induced earthquakes that are large enough to be of concern to the public.
He then denounced specific policies introduced in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which were interpreted as providing exemptions to the fracking industry which allow them to bypass certain protections under the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Act. This, alone with the exemption of disclosing certain chemicals used in the fracking process, are commonly known as the “Halliburton loophole,” and are widely viewed by anti-fracking activists and detrimental to the environment.
Dr. Yuri Gorby, a geomicrobiologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, also addressed water quality through his studies of bacteria found deep within the ground.
Gorby found that through his previous work cleaning up waste at the Hanford Site, a 600 square mile decommissioned nuclear production complex in Washington, he learned that the wastewater introduced into the ecosystem through fracking could do much more damage to the environment.
“It pales in comparison of the 95,000 square miles that we’re drilling into now in the form of Uttica and Marchellus shales,” We worked for 50 years to clean up Hanford, they have new leaks going on, and it will never be cleaned up…. 95,000 square miles that we distribute these contaminants and redirect the materials on the surface of the planet, I’m fairly certain that we will never clean up that mess either.”
Fracking can also release radioactive gas during the extraction, causing another concern, he said.
“By extracting (radon) and then processing and distributing this type of material on the surface of the Earth, we are actually transforming or adding radioactivity to the surface of this planet,” he said.
Donna Carver, a long-time Ohio activist and Interim Executive Director of the Buckeye Forest Council, stated that while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) claims to regulate the industry and injection wells, in her experiences she’s found that enforcement is rarely satisfactory. Specifically, injection wells are not being inspected on a regular basis, and that well casings have been known to leak and let chemicals spill onto the nearby ground.
Carver also showed figures that indicated Ohio was receiving large amounts of fracking wastewater from Pennsylvania, as the injection well program has more stringent regulations there.
As a proactive measure, the WOFAC group advises residents and local elected officials to oppose any Class II injection wells in the area due to the risks it could potentially introduce to the region. As part of the campaign to boost awareness and influence regional representatives, WOFAC handed out instructional pamphlets listing general information about contemporary fracking practices, as well how to contact local state representatives and senators.
For more information about WOFAC, readers can visit http://www.wofac.org/ or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As confirmed by a representative of Energy In Depth Ohio, there is no current oil and gas development, nor any plans for an injection well in Darke County.