By Mary Kuhlman
Organic farmer Mardy Townsend of Ashtabula County is worried about the effects of fracking waste on the environment, as well as her crops. Courtesy: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
WINDSOR, Ohio – From spills to earthquakes, environmental and agriculture groups say hydraulic fracturing poses serious threats to land, water and public health.
Ohio is one of several states taking part in a National Day of Action today, calling for an end to fracking waste and fracking-related earthquakes.
Mardy Townsend owns Marshy Meadows Farm in Ashtabula County, where there are 15 active fracking waste injection wells. A board member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, she says a similar well was behind a series of earthquakes in the area in 1986.
“That is a real concern for us, because the Perry Nuclear Power Plant is less than 20 miles away from my home and my farm,” she says. “It is one of the few areas in Ohio that has been known to already have seismic activity.”
There are over 180 injection wells in Ohio receiving fracking waste from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and state officials linked a string of quakes near Youngstown in 2011 to a wastewater injection well. Industry groups, such as Energy from Shale, argue that hydraulic fracturing is safe, and a boon to the economy – if regulated properly.
To coincide with the national event, Ashtabula County Water Watch is launching a campaign to increase awareness among residents about the dangers of fracking waste. Townsend says what is known as “brine” is toxic, radioactive and largely unregulated.
“The concerns have to do with the possible environmental contamination,” she says. “The other concerns that the people in this county have about brine is that it is being spread as dust control on the dirt roads.”
Townsend adds that very few people benefit from the claimed benefits of fracking, while the rest are left exposed to environmental problems, including possible water and soil contamination.
“I do know of an organic farmer who is surrounded by both frack pads and compressor stations, and I don’t know how long he’s going to be able to hold on,” she says. “Stewardship of the earth is one of the reasons we’re organic farmers, and fracking does not lead to good stewardship of the earth.”
Rallies are being held in over a dozen Ohio counties, as well as in Cincinnati and Columbus.