Ohio to Become a Frack Waste Dumping Ground
April 16, 2014 — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is the sole regulator of the horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry which includes the permitting of not only fracking itself, but the disposal of its toxic and radioactive waste. As fracking continues to grow in the state, so does the amount of waste, including toxic liquids, solids and semi-solid waste, which is also radioactive to varying degrees. As fracking in Ohio produces millions of gallons of liquid and tons of solid waste, it also accepts frack waste from other states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The ODNR issues permits for the disposal of this waste in Class II injection wells, solid waste dump sites and through various processing and recycling facilities.
With proof that the ODNR has become captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate (http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2014/02/kasich-administration-caught-fracking-conspiracy-cover), the Freshwater Accountability Project (FWAP) appealed to the — USEPA Region 5 office in Chicago to revoke the ODNR’s ability to permit for injection wells. In their email of March 3, 2014 to the — USEPA, FWAP stated, “Please consider this to be the statutorily-required notice that the citizens of Ohio, a/k/a the victims of this sinister, politically compromised and profit-driven plot, are putting the — USEPA on notice of potential toxic tort and substantial endangerment damages in which the federal government will share, owing to the agency’s conscious and indifferent approach to the damage to public health and the environment.”
Since that time it was learned that there are at least 23 different frack waste storage, processing and disposal facilities that were permitted by the ODNR ahead of rules. These permits were issued over the 2013/2014 holiday season it is believed in order to escape public notice and grandfather the facilities in ahead of rules. These poorly regulated facilities would accept frack waste by the billions of gallons and hundreds of thousands of tons, not just from Ohio frack drilling, but from out of state. Whereas the ODNR and the companies see this as a revenue-producing scheme, most Ohioans would find the proposals deeply troubling. By profiting from pollution and taking the fracking industry’s biggest problem and finding a publicly-subsidized solution for it, the Kasich administration is taking the lead in the nation to receive massive amounts of frack waste for short-term industry profit and regulatory agency revenue at the long-term expense of millions of Ohioans.
“Why should Ohio be designated as the frack waste dumping ground for the industry,” questioned Lea Harper of FWAP. “Not only is this waste toxic and radioactive, it is being treated as non-hazardous. It is not being traced, the radioactivity is not being measured, and it is being dumped all around the state without anyone knowing about it. We are going to end up like Pennsylvania trying to find out where all the frack waste went and how toxic it is after the fact. In the meantime, we are endangering the safety of our water and the health of future generations of Ohioans just to promote a temporary, highly toxic and unregulated industry while our elected officials take their campaign contributions and abandon concern for a healthy environment and economic future for Ohio.”
The letter to the — USEPA Region 5 dated April 14, 2014 goes on to criticize the ODNR for withholding public records that would have allowed local citizens to know of the toxic waste processing and dumping that was being planned for their communities. — USEPA was asked to investigate the ODNR for deliberately denying the public the ability to know about frack waste facilities within the 30-day time frame in which permits that are issued are allowed to be appealed. “Because of the diligence of our colleague, Teresa Mills of Community Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ) and Buckeye Forest Council (BFC), we were able to find out about one major frack waste dumping scheme in Belmont County in time to appeal,” stated Lea Harper. “This facility, if allowed to go into operation, plans to take 600,000 tons of radioactive frack waste per year and dump it on the bare ground – no oversight – no traceability – no responsibility for future pollution of groundwater and air. How can such things happen without the community knowing of the risks? Only because information is withheld, the facts are distorted, and toxicity is not measured and reported. We aren’t even told all that is in frack waste to be able to test for toxicity or know when it shows up in our water and air. People believe that their government and regulatory agencies are protecting them. This is not the case now in Ohio, and people must wake up to that fact.”
Terry Lodge, attorney for FWAP, reiterates the statement made to the — USEPA in the April 14th letter: “We believe the new Ohio statutory scheme violates the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, along with federal and state sanitary landfill regulations. We aim to hold the ODNR accountable along with the — USEPA if there is a failure to act to stem this tide of illicit dumping and disposal. We believe the ODNR has enacted a secret permitting process to serve the industry it is known to promote, most likely at the behest of the Governor through the head of the agency as a political appointee. We want the — USEPA to revoke the ODNR’s permitting authority, and we also hope that Governor Kasich is held accountable for his role to allow fracking and its toxic waste dumping to overtake Ohio without necessary rules and regulations in place.”
Without adequate rules and regulations to measure, track and properly dispose of fracking waste, Ohio could turn into a large superfund site in the future. Ohioans are already subsidizing frack waste disposal costs by allowing its hazardous waste to be disposed of in non-hazardous Class II injection wells. Radioactive frack waste is also going into unmonitored Ohio solid waste disposal sites. Some of it has been illegally dumped on the ground and into surface waters of the state, and this problem will grow as unscrupulous businesses and individuals attempt to profit from the industry. “Ohio should be protecting those who live here rather than promoting those who just want to make profits by exporting Ohio’s gas, destroying its water and then leaving without accountability for toxic cleanup,” asserted Lea Harper. “Someone needs to intervene to do the right thing. We hope it is the — USEPA because obviously Ohio is not going to receive protection from within its own regulatory and legislative bodies.”