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Vienna, OH – Concerned residents blocked access to an injection well in Trumbull County this morning, protesting the failure of Ohio regulators to adequately test and monitor dumping of toxic fracking waste. One supporter locked himself to the gate to prevent all trucks carrying fracking waste from entering the site. Two activists were detained by police, and the supporter locked to the gate was eventually and safely removed by authorities and placed under arrest. The supporter and detained activists were all released by police without bail a few hours later.
Trumbull County residents, along with supporters from Frack Free Mahoning and Ohio Fracktion, 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 systematically testing out-of-state frack waste that is injected into over 170 wells throughout Ohio.
According to spokesperson Mike Settles, emergency responders from Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted only a simple pH test of the spilled frack waste lining the roads of Fowler Township. As far as further testing for radiation, heavy metals, and other chemicals, Settles explained that EPA doesn’t “have the resources” to perform testing unless there is a “legitimate concern” of environmental damage. Thick, rust colored residue was still visible on the road over a week after the spill.
Concerns over safety will only rise as another serious and deadly accident killed 1 in Bolivar just as the injection well blockade began. Protesters and activists express their deep sympathy with the families and friends. These accidents are an inevitable part of the process of fracking
Liberty Township Trustee Jodi Stoyak expressed her frustration with EPA’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 frack waste 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 frack waste 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 ODNR with a copy of these results on June 27 and requested that ODNR begin testing frack waste, citing his “serious concern that the safety and health of Ohio citizens is in jeopardy from the chemical contents of fracking waste-water.” 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 her community. 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, who led fellow Trumbull County residents in prayer at the site. “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!”