EARTHWORKS

Radioactive waste could settle permanently in Ohio

Laura Hurst's avatar
By Laura Hurst

February 11, 2014

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Protesters block entrance to Ginsburg Well, a fracking disposal waste site, in Athens County, Ohio. Credit: Earth First!

Marcellus, Utica, Point Pleasant. Hailing from Pennsylvania and studying in Ohio, such names ring many depressing and unsettling bells for me.

In Ohio, the threat of fracking looms over the lives of many. With a monetary backing from the fracking industry, Governor John Kasich has plans to increase the number of fracked wells to over 4,000 in the next four years.

Some of the most apparent repercussions of fracking in Ohio are the consequential local earthquakes due to the injection of hazardous chemicals into the ground. And if Governor Kasich and the natural gas industry are successful, the quakes will only increase.

Not only must Ohioans deal with the domineering fracking industry and its plans to creep further into lives and onto lands, we now have to worry about harmful waste that will create a toxic legacy in our state.

Ohio, already littered with fracked wells, could soon become dumping grounds for the leftovers of the process. The low level radioactive waste (LLRW) from fracking in Ohio, but also from wells outside our state borders, could come to settle permanently in our municipal landfills.

Next door, Pennsylvania is beginning to reconsider LLRW disposal after levels of radium 220 times over the average were recorded in the Blacklick Creek near an oil and gas drilling waste-water treatment facility. However, with potential regulations in Pennsylvania, the state can evade total responsibility for its waste by simply shipping it across the border to Ohio.

Radium naturally occurs in some shales, adding to the already toxic cocktail of dangerous chemicals required to frack. Now, this radioactive waste, including fracking chemicals, will be knowingly stored in our landfills threatening the air, water, and biosphere even further.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, fracking in Ohio injected 14.16 million barrels of waste below the ground in 2012 -- equivalent to the volume of 900 Olympic size swimming pools -- and nearly 58% of that waste was imported from other states. Such ghastly numbers will only increase if Ohio continues to allow fracking waste to enter its landfills.

Through selective language, Ohio legislation exempts much radioactive waste from any testing or regulation making it easy to dump into regular landfills. What’s more, the fact that radium occurs naturally is being used as a mask to downplay the case for LLRW control.

Unfortunately there is a huge lack of awareness about LLRW. Concern arises quickly when discussing radioactive waste generated from nuclear reactors; however, 'fracking' doesn't sound the same alarms, concealing the problem. I hope Ohio will act quickly to change legislation so that drillers and other states can’t use our land as high-risk dumping grounds.

Tagged with: radioactive waste, ohio, fracking

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