WINDSOR TOWNSHIP — Dozens of county residents expressed their concerns about injection wells in Ashtabula County at a meeting this week.
The Wednesday evening forum at Windsor Community Center focused on injection wells, but no one from the fracking industry attended. Vanessa Pesec of the Network of Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection (NEOGAP) give a presentation on the inefficiency, excesses and dangers of injection wells. She detailed the toxic contents of the injection liquid and the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s inability to help Ohio citizens with injection well concerns.
“The problem is frack wastewater contents are often not disclosed to the public because they are considered proprietary trade secrets,” Pesec said during the presentation. “There are 692 ingredients in fracking wastewater, and 51 one of them are very carcinogenic, like Radium 226, which causes leukemia.”
She said all injection well “frack water” was highly toxic.
“Pennsylvania fracking wastewater is 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for safe drinking water,” she said. “And they’re bringing it here to Ashtabula County. One problem is safety forces may not know what they’re dealing with if an emergency occurs.”
Ann Rapose, an Ashtabula County Water Watch board member who made introductory remarks, called Pesec’s presentation “a real eye opener.”
Pesec said Ashtabula County has both active and abandoned wells, and even abandoned wells release toxic chemicals into the environment. Injection well casings can fail and let toxic materials enter aquifers, she said.
“Injection wells can also cause earthquakes,” she said. “Oklahoma was not very seismically active until it built many (fracking) wells. By 2014, it had hundreds of quakes and was the most seismically active state in the nation. It is now three times more seismically active than California.”
Pesec said one of her main concerns was oversight.
“The attitude (since the 1980s) has been with oil and gas wells, ‘we’ll grant permits first and then see what happens,’” she said. “There are literally trillions of gallons of fracking waste water that need to disposed of. But where and how can it be done safely?”
Mardy Townsend, president of the Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga County Farmers Union, one of the meeting’s sponsors, said her grass fed beef farm near Windsor has four water wells and three streams running through it. There is an injection well not far from her farm and she said anything that would contaminate her water sources would put her family out of the farming business.
“We just had another quake last week in this area,” she said. “It horrifies me to think this (injection well wastewater) could destroy our farm.”
Julia Barton said she and her husband, Patrick Turner, bought a farm near Hatches Corners Road in the Conneaut area to grow organic produce. They recently found out an injection well will be built two miles from their farm.
“We need clean water,” she said. “But (ODNR) seem to want to embrace oil and gas instead (of farming). We don’t need industries from out of state ruining the environment here.”
Another citizen, Lorrie Accettola, said two decaying, abandoned wells encircle his Trumbull Township property and it has been difficult to have anything done about it.
“I’ve been wrestling with ODNR and the owner for years,” he said.
Trumbull Township trustee Ron Tamburrino said Ashtabula County has become a dumping ground for out of state fracking wastewater.
“Most of the injection wells are in rural areas,” he said. “That’s why we may be able to slow this down by enacting strict township zoning laws.”
All three county commissioners expressed concerns about the injection wells.
“We need to get the state to listen to our concerns, keep fighting and do whatever we can,” County Commissioner Peggy Carlo said.
Ashtabula County Commissioner Dan Claypool said the issue is personal for him.
“I have one of these wells down the street from me, so it’s a personal concern,” he said. “We need to vote for legislators who care about people, not the industry.”
County Commissioner Casey Kozlowski said citizens need to give testimony to the Ohio Energy and Natural Resources committee “get in touch with leaders who are legislation gate keepers. They also need to know the county commissioners will help them however they can.”
The meeting was sponsored by the Ashtabula County Water Watch, the Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union, Concerned Citizens Ohio, Hiram and Shalersville, Frack Free Geauga, and the Lake Effect chapter of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.