Ohio residents are blocking access to an injection well in Trumbull County this morning, protesting the failure of Ohio regulators to adequately test and monitor the dumping of toxic fracking wastewater in the state.
Trumbull County residents, along with supporters from Frack Free Mahoning and Ohio Fracktion, are gathered at the well site on Sodom Hutchings Road in Vienna Township, to express concerns about the contents of the 1,000 gallons of fracking wastewater that spilled along five miles of road in Fowler Township, a nearby residential area, on July 7.
They are demanding that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) begin testing out-of-state frack wastewater that is being injected into more than 170 wells throughout Ohio. One protester has locked himself to the gate to prevent trucks carrying fracking wastewater from entering the site.
According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) spokesperson Mike Settles, emergency responders conducted only a simple pH test of the fracking wastewater that spilled along the roads of Fowler Township. As far as further testing for radiation, heavy metals and other chemicals that could be present in the spilled fracking wastewater, Settles explained that the OEPA doesn’t “have the resources” to perform testing unless there is a “legitimate concern” of environmental damage. However, thick, rust colored residue was still visible on the road one week after the spill.
Liberal Township Trustee Jodi Stoyak expressed her frustration with OEPA’s response in a July 12 letter to Mr. Settles, noting “many of the chemicals used in [fracking] and contained in the waste are officially classified individually as hazardous…. This, in my opinion, is a huge environmental concern.”
ODNR officials have ignored numerous written and oral requests from Ohio residents to order testing of the countless gallons of out-of-state fracking wastewater injected underground into Ohio each year. In response to a recent public records request asking ODNR to release all testing relevant to fracking waste, ODNR geologist Tom Tomastik provided no results taken after 1989.
A 2011 New York Times report revealed a widespread, massive presence of radioactive materials in fracking wastewater, including levels over 1,000 times federal drinking water standards.
A recent independently tested sample of fracking wastewater from Athens County revealed elevated levels of barium, arsenic, toluene, alpha particles and diesel particles nearly 300,000 times the federal standard for drinking water. State Representative Bob Hagan contacted the ODNR with a copy of these results on June 27 and requested that the ODNR begin testing fracking wastewater, citing his “serious concern that the safety and health of Ohio citizens is in jeopardy from the chemical contents of fracking wastewater.” As of July 16, he has received no reply.
This blockade comes just weeks after Madeline ffitch of Athens County chained herself to two barrels, blocking access to an injection well in west of Athens, Ohio. A statewide call-in day to demand that ODNR initiate a statewide brine-testing program is scheduled for Tuesday.
“How can the ODNR possibly allow fracking companies to dump untold volumes of fracking waste in our communities if they won’t even test it? How can they reassure us that a 1,000 gallon spill of waste is safe if they don’t even know what was in the fluid that was spilled?” asks Reverend Monica Beasley-Martin from Trumbull County. “We have been asking too long, and we have had enough. We need safe water and clean air. Ohio is not a sacrifice zone, and Ohio is not a dumping ground. ODNR: test the fracking waste now!”