While hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas has created an economic boom in some states, the drilling process has also produced a huge quantity of waste, much of which has made its way into Ohio for dumping purposes.
In 2012, 14.2 million barrels of chemically-treated fracking fluids as well as oil and gas waste products were injected into disposal wells in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. This amount reflects a 12% increase from the previous year.
The waste was removed from the booming Marcellus shale wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where fracking has virtually taken over rural economies, and relocated for disposal in Ohio. Environmental-advocacy groups consider these left-over fracking fluids to be a pollution threat to groundwater and streams; the vast amount of fluid and waste being dumped in Ohio is therefore extremely worrying.
Teresa Mills, a fracking coordinator for Buckeye Forest Council in Ohio said, “I think we’ve been the sacrifice zone for the oil and gas industry long enough. How much can we take before there are more earthquakes and before (drinking water) wells are contaminated?”
Ohio has long been a destination for oil and gas waste-disposal, but the state has recently suffered several earthquakes that may compromise the integrity of the wells containing these environmentally-toxic fracking waste products. Products being dumped include leftover fracking fluid that comes back to the surface after being injected into underground wells to free trapped shale-gas for collection; and saltwater contaminated with metals and radioactive materials that were trapped underground for millions of years.
While oil and gas waste has been coming into the state for years, fracking waste began making its way into Ohio in 2011 after Pennsylvania regulators stopped big oil and gas companies from dumping their toxic wastes into local streams. Since there are only seven active disposal wells in Pennsylvania and 63 in West Virginia, waste is often directed to one of the 191 disposal wells located in Ohio.
Jed Thorp, manager of Ohio’s Sierra Club chapter, said, “We need to be very honest and look at ourselves and understand we are becoming the preferred destination for this waste. We need to figure out what we can do to keep that from happening.”