Ashtabula County Water Watch, an all-volunteer grassroots environmental group, is preparing an educational campaign on the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing wastewater, or brine, called “Brine Ain’t Fine.”
The campaign kicks off today, in conjunction with a “National Day of Action” organized by several national anti-fracking groups, and ACWW is seeking more volunteers to inform the local community about frackwater’s hazards.
Though brine is classified as saltwater — making it OK to dump into more than a dozen county Class II injection wells, or to spread on county roads as a dust suppressant — fracking chemicals in the brine solution are often radioactive or carcinogenic, as watchdog groups have found.
Stephanie Blessing, an ACWW coordinator who also farms organic vegetables in Jefferson, said with the county government and municipalities’ recent concerted effort to stand up against the proliferation of injection wells — calling for a moratorium on new wells until local regulatory control is restored — now is the time to start a community discussion and spread awareness.
Blessing is a West Virginia transplant who helped organize Kentucky communities against mountaintop removal and coal mining in the state. The oil and gas industry is “the same monster,” she said.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it’s hard to learn what is real and what is not real,” she said. “If there is something toxic and radioactive, then I would want to know whether or not my crops were essentially absorbing any of that. I’d want to put up barriers along the road.”
The state Department of Natural Resources, the sole fracking oversight entity in Ohio, does not have a local influence, Blessing said — that’s why the area needs its own watchdogs.
“I’m so glad they’re turning toward education,” said Vanessa Pesec with the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection. “People have no idea (frackwater is) going in landfills and in injection wells. People don’t have any idea of ... the longer term consequences.”
NEOGAP is one of six groups helping organize rallies, demonstrations and public outreach across the country today, along with FrackFree America.
FrackFree spokeswoman Jane Spies said last week that activists planned to visit injection well sites in the Youngstown area today. Fracking detractors suspect increased seismic activity in the area is linked to drilling.
“One thing we’re learning is it seems to get worse, the more they’re injecting,” Spies said. “We don’t even know what’s the possible damage for even repeated similar tremors. What does that do for the infrastructure — water lines or gas lines?
“It’s not something we should be toying with.”
A Painesville event was also being planned, Spies said. A candlelight vigil is taking place in Texas, while a fracking film is set for showing in Oklahoma, a state which is experiencing a sharp spike in seismic activity related to fracking activity.
“The whole reason is to get the word out so people wake up and realize,” Pesec said.
Blessing said ACWW is looking to organize community forums at local libraries, including information sessions and photos, a fundraising campaign for water tests on residential property, educational film showings and letter-writing campaigns.
“We were talking about doing demonstrations near the Pennsylvania state line, to point out the fact that all this waste is coming from Pennsylvania,” she said.
Of the 1.1 million barrels of frackwater dumped in Ashtabula County last year, almost three-quarters came from out of state — and there isn’t a single producing well in Ashtabula County.
“It seems there’s a need for education around this brine issue,” she said.
Those interested in helping with ACWW’s “Brine Ain’t Fine” campaign can contact Ashtabula County Water Watch at (440) 549-0111, or ACWaterWatch@gmail.com.
Find ACWW on Facebook at Facebook.com/AshtabulaCountyWaterWatch.