Oil and gas industry is taking advantage of lack of adequate regulations

Oil and gas industry is taking advantage of lack of adequate regulations

Tuscarawas County has had a Class II injection well, the Dennison Disposal, operating in Dennison on Route 250 since 2016. We see the fat tanker trucks traveling all along our roadways to deliver their cargo to disposal sites. They are innocuously labeled as “brine,” but the liquid cargo contains more than salt water and could even contain radioactive materials.

Last Monday I attended an environmental community science meeting at the Ohio University Campus Eastern in St. Clairsville, Ohio. The meeting was to provide local citizens with scientific information regarding a proposed oil and gas waste Class II injection well to be located at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ohio 331.

Presenters at the meeting included Dr. Nicole Deziel, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale University, and Dr. John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University. They shared the results of their scientific research for members of the Richland Township Community.

This Class II injection well would accept produced water wastes from high-pressure hydraulic fracking. This waste contains flow-back water, the fluid used to frack a well. This fluid is a chemical cocktail that can contain benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, mercury and many other proprietary chemicals.

The liquid waste also contains toxic metals, radioactive materials and brine resulting from contact with the ancient rock formation that is being fracked. As a well is fracked, millions of gallons of fracking fluids are injected deep into the rock strata.

According to a 2018 study out of Dartmouth College, in just hours radioactive Radium-226 and Radium-228 can be leached out of the rock and into the saline solution. As the brine is pulled to the surface to be disposed of, the water-soluble radioactive isotopes hitch a ride as well.

More than 18-billion gallons of waste fluid from oil and gas is generated annually in the U.S., according to the American Petroleum Institute.

The waste is often referred to as Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials or TENORM.

A Pennsylvania study found produced water from a horizontal unconventional well can contain water soluble Radium-226 in concentrations ranging from 40-26,000 pCi/L. The safe drinking water standard for Radium-226 and Radium-228 is 5 pCi/L.

This toxic radioactive waste is what is pushed down injection wells in Ohio. In addition much of the waste injected into Ohio’s Class II wells comes from out-of-state sources (Pennsylvania and West Virginia).

According to a study done by FrackTracker, Ohio has 226 active Class II injection wells. These wells dot Ohio’s landscape in and along the area of Utica and Marcellus drilling, as well as expand into Ashtabula, Trumball and Portage counties to the north and Washington, Athens and Muskingum counties to the south.

FrackTracker data shows the top-20 wells within these 226 are accepting more waste each year, at least 24,822 barrels more annually. This is due in part to an increase in the horizontal distances drilled to frack a well.

In the beginning of the fracking boom, most lateral lengths were approximately 2 miles. Now they have increased to 3 to 3 1/2 miles. These “super laterals” require more water to frack and therefore create more wastes or “produced water.”

In some areas of Ohio, such as Warren, “frack-friendly” legislation is being introduced that would, according to FrackTracker, “monetize and/or commodify fracking wastes by giving townships a share of the revenue.”

This legislation is House Bill 578 (Reps. Michael O’Brian, Glenn Holms, John Patterson and Craig Riedel) and House Bill 393 (Anthony DeVitis ) and Senate Bill 165 (Mike Skindell and Matt Dolan).

Another troubling issue is the use of waste brine as a deicer on Ohio’s roadways. This not only increases the release of bromide and chloride ions into our watersheds but also adds radioactive nuclides such as the water-soluble Radium-226.

Pennsylvania stopped the use of brine on road surfaces in 2016 to protect human health and the environment.

Instead, Ohio’s oil and gas industry is taking advantage of the lack of adequate regulations for waste water. The industry has found a way to make money from the salty wastes. Aqua Salina is a product made from waste and marketed as “ancient sea water.” It can be found by the gallon at many local hardware stores.

Samples purchased directly from shelves of local hardware stores were tested and results showed some samples were as high as 500 times greater than the background radiation from Radium-226 and Radium-228. If someone drinks water with radium in it, the body mistakes it as calcium and will use it to build bone cells. Radium is an alpha emitter and can cause bone cancer.

House Bill 393 makes it impossible to regulate the sales of this radioactive product. An excellent article in Ohio’s Columbus Free Press said, “Ohio’s roads are being sprayed with this radioactive waste at a recommended rate of 30-50 gallons per lane/mile.”

Ohioans need to contact their township trustees and the Ohio Department of Transportation and demand this product not be used on roadways. We need to start holding our local and state politicians accountable for letting our state become “The Dumping State.”

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