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Federal and state governments do not do enough to safeguard drinking water around the nearly 200,000 wells where fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, according to a federal report.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation found that existing regulations do not adequately protect against contamination that could occur after earthquakes, which is increasingly a concern at injection wells and fracking sites in Ohio and out west.

In some states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees injection wells. On others, state agencies, such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, regulates oil and gas drilling.

Julia Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. EPA, said the agency is reviewing the report, but generally agrees with the findings.

Bob Worstall, an oil and gas resources management deputy chief with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said that after earthquakes connected with an injection well rolled through Mahoning County in 2011, ODNR started requiring seismic monitoring near injection wells.

Additional earthquakes occurred this year in Northeast Ohio near fracking sites.

“Our experience has been — and I think the results will bear it out — that if the well is constructed properly, the likelihood of any issues down the road are greatly diminished,” he said.

Ohio has about 30 seismic monitoring stations near injection wells.

In all, Ohio has nearly 2,500 injection wells; Pennsylvania has about 1,900. Not all of those are active, and fracking wastewater injection wells represent an even smaller portion.

Ohio has about 200 fracking wastewater injection wells. Pennsylvania has 10.

To pull oil and natural gas from shale, companies drill vertically and then turn sideways into the rock. Then they blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the shafts to free trapped oil and gas in the process called fracking.

During the process, fluids bubble back up to the surface with the gas.

Worstall said it is easier to get an injection well permit in Ohio than Pennsylvania because the state issues permits. In Pennsylvania, the U.S. EPA issues permits.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, he said, typically approves an injection well permit within a month and a half. The federal EPA permit process takes about six months.

And as fracking increases in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, the amount of wastewater increases.

Fracking chemicals include ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, considered a possible carcinogen. The waste that bubbles up also includes radioactive material.

According to the GAO report, at least 2 billion gallons of wastewater are injected every day into wells across the country.

California officials shut down 11 injection wells last month and the review of an additional 100 because of fears that companies had been injecting the wastewater into drinking water aquifers.

Mark Bruce, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman, said injection wells are an improvement over past practices.

“Before 1983, the way oil and gas waste was disposed of was you dug a pit and you left it in the pit,” he said. “So (underground injection wells were) developed to eliminate that.”

But environmental activists say the injection wells can be dangerous. Seismic testing is not required at every injection well in Ohio, said Teresa Mills, Ohio organizer with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

And the state doesn’t require testing of surrounding drinking water wells in rural areas where injection wells typically are built.

“My steadfast belief is once they put (wastewater) down a hole, it’s going to come out somewhere — ether in my community or if it makes its way into a river via underground passages,” Mills said. “If they can’t find a better way to treat it, then they should not be allowed to produce it.”

Worstall said injection wells are the best option for fracking wastewater right now.

“You don’t want it at the surface, you don’t want it dumped in a river,” he said. “Some of these, it’s 7,000 or 8,000 feet below ground level, in a reservoir that’s isolated. It’s gone.”


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Original article on The Columbus Dispatch

 

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Report: Too few safeguards for drinking water near fracking wells

Report: Too few safeguards for drinking water near fracking wells

Federal and state governments do not do enough to safeguard drinking water around the nearly 200,000 wells where fracking wastewater is injected deep underground, according to a federal report. The U.S. Government Accountability Office investigation found that existing regulations do not adequately protect against contamination that could occur after earthquakes, which is increasingly a concern at injection wells and fracking sites in Ohio and out west. In some states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees injection wells. On others, state agencies, such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, regulates oil...

Laura Arenschield | The Columbus Dispatch 11 Aug 2014 Hits:245 Ohio

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Kasich’s fracking plan comes into sharper focus

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Judge: Ohio must recognize out-of-state gay marriages

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Exclusive: Leader of Anonymous Steubenville Op on Being Raided by the FBI

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PR Newswire 29 Mar 2013 Hits:807 Ohio

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Ohio Fracking CEO Pleads Not Guilty in Federal Toxic Waste-Dumping Case

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Mike Ludwig | Truthout 16 Feb 2013 Hits:1042 Ohio

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Ohio Governor’s Tax Plan Would Cut Taxes For Wealthy, Raise Them On The Poor

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Judge Blasts Ohio’s Last Minute Disenfranchisement Effort: ‘I Don’t Want To See Democracy …

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Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is fast becoming one of the most despised election officials in the country for his many attempts to restrict early voting and throw out legitimate provisional ballots. He’s also alienating federal judges left and right. After Husted issued a last-minute directive that could invalidate thousands of Ohioans’ votes, US District Judge Algenon Marbley did not bother to hide his impatience with the secretary’s hijinks. Husted’s directive, which was issued at 7 pm on the Friday before the election, openly...

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Aviva Shen | ThinkProgress 03 Nov 2012 Hits:943 Ohio

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Julie Carr Smyth | Yahoo News / Associate Press 17 Oct 2012 Hits:697 Ohio

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Supreme Court allows early voting in Ohio

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Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 09 Oct 2012 Hits:867 Ohio

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Ian Millhiser | Think Progress 05 Oct 2012 Hits:810 Ohio

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Scott Keyes | Think Progress 08 Sep 2012 Hits:817 Ohio

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Ohio's GOP Secretary of State Ignores Court Order To Expand Weekend Voting

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Steven Rosenfeld | AlterNet 04 Sep 2012 Hits:799 Ohio

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BREAKING: Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Law Restricting Early Voting

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Ian Millhiser 31 Aug 2012 Hits:1019 Ohio

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Ohio GOP Election Board Member: Our Voting Process Shouldn’t Accommodate Black Voters

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Aviva Shen | ThinkProgress Justice 19 Aug 2012 Hits:1420 Ohio

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