Our view: Portage County: a dumping ground for frack waste

DKS Editors

In the last decade, energy companies have developed a particularly lucrative method of extracting natural gas from the shale rock formations beneath eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The process, which involves fracturing the rock that contains massive pools of gas, has made energy production cheaper and brought millions of dollars of investment to this area of the country.

But what concerns us — and much of the Portage County community — is what happens well after the actual fracturing of the ground. The chemicals that seep up from the ground — a mixture of brine, water and other unknown chemicals — have caused a stir in recent years as “fracking” has boomed.

What do we do with fracking waste? It’s a question that may not compel you to act without knowing that Portage County has quietly become the dumping ground for it.

It has the most disposal wells of all the counties in Ohio, which receives barges and truckloads of waste from surrounding states. The Akron Beacon Journal reported in 2012 that nearly two-thirds of the almost 2.5 million barrels of waste Ohio injects into the ground comes from another state.

To make matters worse, despite all the public scrutiny and attention, the effects of fracking on the environment have not been fully investigated. Industry groups battle environmentalists on theories about what happens when you inject unknown chemicals into the ground, but the fact remains we don’t know.

In New York, this uncertainty prompted the state government to prevent fracking in 2008. The moratorium is still in effect as the state’s environmental agency reviews it.

Simply put, we — specifically, Portage County — are bearing the biggest brunt of whatever potential hazards that fracking could have on our drinking water.

In our nation’s history, we’ve seen this cycle of environmental destruction before, mostly resulting from a lack of regulation and understanding of an industry. Often, the populations of affected regions don’t have the money or the legal representation to stand up to enigmatic corporations that are behind such actions.

Complicating matters, companies entice those who own land that contains valuable minerals can lease to companies can make big money buy selling mineral rights to the companies.

Kent State is in a similar predicament as a landowner. Although the school has not yet approved or turned away fracking on its grounds, the future is uncertain to us. Say a company wants to give Kent State money in exchange for land to frack, an offer that could lower tuition.

Would you support fracking on school grounds then?

We think that until the hazards are fully realized, we should keep fracking in our mind but not in our backyards.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.