Study warns of fracking waste influx

Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center

COLUMBUS – A new report by researchers at Kent State and Duke Universities shows that fracking waste generated in the region has increase 570 percent since 2004, and warns of an explosion of waste in years to come. In 2011, the most recent year for which complete records are available, 12.8 million barrels of wastewater were dumped into Ohio’s underground wells. Over half of that came from fracking in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where drilling in the Marcellus Shale has been more extensive.

“This is just further evidence Ohio dove in head first to the fracking rush without really looking at all, said Julian Boggs, Environment Ohio State Policy Advocate. “Industry and policymakers seem to have no credible plan for what to do with all this waste, and how to keep Pennsylvania’s trash out of our backyard.”

Fracking waste is a mixture of injected chemicals, sand and water; and corrosive salts and radioactive, heavy metals that bubbles up from deep underground. As a result, waste presents even an even broader array of health risks than fracking fluid itself, including radiation levels up to 3600 times what is allowable in drinking water.

“Ohio is fast becoming a dumping ground for Pennsylvania’s fracking waste in addition to its own. That’s not a distinction that any state would aspire to, and it is not what the Buckeye State deserves” said Boggs.

Disposal of toxic, radioactive fracking waste hasn’t proven easy. In December 2011, a series of earthquakes that were later linked to underground waste disposal shook the Youngstown area. In addition to underground waste disposal, waste is sometimes processed in sewage treatment facilities, which are often unable to process the salts and metals and led to a massive contamination of Pittsburgh’s Monongahela River in 2008. In Ohio, waste is also allowed as a de-icer on roads, posing a direct threat to surface water.

Some of the lenient regulation for fracking waste can be attributed to its exemption from the nation’s hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Environment Ohio and others believe that as a matter of course, Congress and EPA should move quickly to restore this loophole.

Yet even as the risks of fracking and other fossil fuels become clearer every day, Ohio policymakers are resisting the transition to clean, pollution-free energy like wind and solar. Earlier this month, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio dealt a major blow to construction of Turning Point Solar the eastern Ohio, what could have been the largest solar farm east of the Rockies.

“All this makes abundantly clear that now is the time for Ohio to move aggressively towards clean energy. We should double our renewable energy goals under state law, and regulators need to keep a close eye on our utilities to ensure that our state’s efficiency programs are saving as much energy as possible,” concluded Boggs.


Environment Ohio is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working to protect the places we love and the environmental values we share.