Frack Waste is Radioactive

Monitoring is Sparse (at best) and Likely Inaccurate

It is widely known that waste from hydraulic fracturing is radioactive.  In fact, for decades the oil and gas industry has used radioactivity to locate drilling sites.  It is well understood that shale beds deep below the earth’s surface contain radioactive elements that are routinely found in flowback and produced water that return to the surface in the millions of gallons produced during fracking operations.  Not only is frack waste radioactive to varying degrees, but the usual methods for testing for radioactivity are ineffective for testing Marcellus Shale fluids because of their chemical composition.  These methods can underestimate the total radioactivity in produced water.

The primary regulator for oil and gas waste in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), has the authority to measure radioactivity in fracking waste, but is failing to do so in any meaningful manner. The science suggests that those facilities that are measuring radioactivity of frack waste may be underestimating radioactivity levels due to improper methodology.

Freshwater Accountability Project continues to alert our legislators and regulators to this area of great concern, and we ask for proper measurement of radioactivity levels in frack waste prior to its acceptance into injection wells and solid waste facilities in the state. Ohio needs to pay particular attention to this issue, as it has become a dumping ground for waste associated with development of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.

For further information on radioactivity in frack waste, check out this report by our friends at Frack Tracker, and this comprehensive study by our friends at Earthworks.

FreshWater Works with Regulators to Help Make Better Law

After FreshWater Accountability Project Submits Comments, Ohio EPA Decides to Update Underground Injection Control Program Rules

Ohio EPA is in the process of doing its 5-year review of certain components of its Underground Injection Control Program (“UIC Program”).  This is the program designed to prevent the contamination of our underground sources of drinking water.

FreshWater Accountability Project submitted comments on Ohio EPA’s decision to issue no changes to UIC Program rules OAC 3745-34-03 and OAC 3745‑34-10, which involve confidentiality of information and waiver of UIC Program requirements by the director.

Following FreshWater’s comments, Ohio EPA has now proposed changes to OAC 3745-34-10 that would ensure the director must prepare a fact sheet that includes a “demonstration that operating, monitoring, or reporting requirements can be reduced with no adverse health or environmental impact” any time he or she waives requirements under OAC 3745-34-10.  Read FreshWater’s comment in entirety here.

FreshWater commends Ohio EPA for making this recommended change to OAC 3745-34-01. We will continue to keep our eye on the agencies charged with protecting our freshwater resources to make sure they are doing exactly that.

Health Problems From Fracking

Medical Community Calls for Monitoring

Doctors Russell A. Wilke and Jerome W. Freeman, of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine published an editorial this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), warning that hydraulic fracturing continues to expand amid growing concerns over air quality, water contamination, and negative health impacts.  The article argues that the medical community needs to be more closely monitoring the health impacts of this industry.

Work in Progress

Identifying Contaminants in Drinking Water

FreshWater is working with the American Geophysical Union‘s Thriving Earth Exchange to begin a study of water contamination in the Wills Creek region of Guernsey County.  We look forward to providing our members with updates as this exciting community-lead project unfolds.

Legal Update

FreshWater v. Patriot Water Treatment LLC, et al.

FreshWater continues to work towards resolution of Clean Water Act violations by Patriot Water Treatment LLC and the City of Warren.  For years FreshWater warned the City of Warren of the risks associated with accepting processed oil and gas waste into its publicly-owned wastewater treatment works (POTW) for disposal into the Mahoning River.  FreshWater has kept an eye on the Patriot facility and the Warren POTW since the two facilities began handling oil and gas waste in 2011.  After discovering several Clean Water Act violations at these facilities, in April of 2017, FreshWater notified Patriot and Warren of its intent to bring a citizen suit if the problems were not addressed.  This formal notice, required by the Clean Water Act, gave both Patriot and Warren 60 days to come to the table to begin resolving the Clean Water Act violations.  FreshWater followed through with this action, filing suit over the violations in June 2017.  It continues to be FreshWater’s hope and intention that this matter will be resolved in a way that benefits the long-term stability and quality of the Warren POTW and the Mahoning River.

Education Opportunity

State of the Science Regarding Neurodevelopmental Impacts of Oil and Gas Development

Join this teleconference Thursday December 7, 12:00-12:30PM EST to learn more from Ellen Webb MPH about the increased risks to infants, children, and young adults from exposure to air pollutant emissions and potential water contamination associated with unconventional oil and gas development. Teleconference hosted by The Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

Tools for Organizers and Individuals

Tips, Tactics, and Resources

Environment America has put together this resource to help individuals and community groups jump in and effectively join the battle to end fracking. Putting an end to fracking and protecting our precious natural resources, quality of life, and health takes all of us. We encourage you to take a look and try out some of their advice and resources.

Featured Frack Waste Facility

Cowgill Impoundment, Marion Township, Noble County, Wills Creek, Muskingam River Watershed

FreshWater has been keeping its eye on the rapidly growing number of frack waste disposal and processing facilities here in Ohio. Each month, we’ll be spot-lighting one facility to alert folks to the location and activities of these facilities.

This month’s facility is the Cowgill Impoundment located on Cowgill Road in Marion Township, Noble County in the Wills Creek/Muskingum River watershed. Here’s a short video of the facility.

January 3, 2014 CNX Gas company received a Chief’s Order for the Cowgill Impoundment from ODNR that temporarily authorized it to receive and store brine, “freshwater,” and produced fluids from multiple “CNX operations sources.” The order states these fluids are stored at the impoundment and then “sent to surrounding CNX Utica wells for recycling during oil and gas operations.”

Eyes on the Horizon:

Renewables in Ohio, Supporting Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards

Protecting our freshwater resources means supporting renewable energy sources.  Unfortunately the Ohio legislature is yet again considering gutting Ohio’s clean energy standards.  Ohioans and Governor Kasich expressed their support for Ohio’s clean energy standards last year.  Significant opportunities exist for investment in clean energy resources.  FreshWater encourages its members to let their representatives know that they support strong clean energy standards for Ohio to bring good clean energy jobs to our state and to keep our communities healthy and safe places to live.