Our View: Approving Toxic Waste

DKS Editors

If the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approves nine pending applications, Portage County will have more dumping zones of toxic brine than anywhere else in the state before the end of the year, the Daily Kent Stater reported in a story that ran Thursday. The waste comes from hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as fracking — a way to extract natural gas and oil from the ground that has swept across eastern Ohio and other parts of the country during the past few years.

Fracking works by pumping chemically laced water and sand into deep layers of the earth’s shale. Almost all of the harmful chemicals flow back to the surface, and then workers dump them into underground pipes called injection wells.

The wells dispose of the toxic brine caused by fracking, but, like fracking wells, injection wells create risk for contaminating soil and water, according to a Portage County anti-fracking group, among others.

The ODNR, which approves and reviews fracking and injection wells in the state, adopted new regulations in August to prevent toxic brine from leaking into drinking water or vegetation and claims that the wells are safe. Though there are other risks — like transporting the brine in trucks — we do not seek to argue the safety of injection wells, but rather the voice communities have in their placement.

ODNR requires that injection well operators open a 15-day period for public comments or forum before the well application can be reviewed, but the state can only consider objections based on potential violations to Ohio environment and health laws, according to a ODNR spokesperson.

Other than such forums, communities have little influence on where an injection well can or cannot be placed. Local government also has limited voice.

With debate growing as the number of wells increases, we think approval of the wells is worth appearing on the ballot for community members to voice their opinions.

Cincinnati and Mansfield have passed laws banning injection wells, but Portage County Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio said she trusts the ODNR to regulate the wells. Though the ODNR does take strict safety precautions, enough people have voiced concerns about the potential safety hazards associated with injection wells that we think they should have a voice, too.

The above editorial is the consensus on of the Daily Kent Stater editorial