Dig this. The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has approved 27 operating permits for fracking “recycling” centers since January. That’s actually every permit that has been sought, too.
Allegedly, the centers take the radioactive, petroleum-ridden salt sludge leftover from the fracking process and “store or ‘clean’ it before sending it on to landfills or injection wells.” The Dispatch printed:
“Oil and gas wells … produce saltwater contaminated with metals and radioactive materials trapped underground for millions of years. That waste often is injected into deep wells. But a series of earthquakes in western states and in northeastern Ohio, as well as concerns about drinking-water contamination, has many critics worried about injection wells.”
In order to cut down on the strain and dependence on injection wells, the allegedly “recycled” fracking waste is transported to landfills, and the waste simply stored is either later “recycled” or simply passed on to injection wells as they would have otherwise been in the first place.
ODNR spokesperson Mark Bruce stated:
“They need a place to put (the waste), and they need a place to test it. You don’t want a container of oil-field waste just sitting somewhere.”
Many are, of course, worried about the “recycling” centers, themselves. You tell us, America. Do you trust that this mysterious, radioactive sludge is being “recycled” well enough to dump on landfills, eventually slipping into the groundwater supply?
All 27 of the permits are viewed as temporary due to the fact the state has yet to even write the regulations for such centers. They are designed to expire six months after the regulations have been written. Ohio readers will especially enjoy the fact that the entire process has been going on without public knowledge, notification, or comment, leaving critics worried at best. According to them, there is far too little oversight. Often none at all once the site has been initially inspected in the permit process. What is to ensure the safety and health of the environment? Our communities? Our citizens?
Not surprisingly, nearly half of them are already operating — 12 of them. Eight of them even began operations before last January’s law that pulled such facilities under state authority. Before that they operated with virtually no authority or oversight whatsoever. Couple that with gag orders and keeping the public from knowing what goes into fracking brine in the first place and folks have more than enough reason to feel a lack of trust with such dubious companies and industries, not to mention the steady stream of sick people and communities continuously left in the wake of the fracking industry.
Though Ohio officials are able to request test results in order to monitor whether radioactive waste passes through the facilities, none have done so — not the ODNR, nor the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency — and these are your “watchdogs,” folks!
Upon inspection of permit applications, The Dispatch found that such “recycling” facilities perform a number of tasks and functions, from temporary storage of fracking waste, to cleaning storage tanks and trucks used to transport the toxic grime, to allegedly “cleaning” radioactive elements from fracking wells and dumping the remains on landfills.
There’s one facility in the town of Wooster that performs that latter service and Wooster’s law director Richard Benson claims the city was never notified or informed that the facility would be hauling fracking waste into the community. He has appealed the facility’s permit to the governor-appointed Oil and Gas Commission and awaits a hearing yet to be scheduled.
“Our concern is the absence of regulations. What sort of protocols do they have for safety? What if a spill occurs?”
If Benson is being sincere, this also points toward less than straightforward communication from the fracking industry.
One ODNR engineer who often works such “recycling” facilities, Blake Arthur, said engineers visit every site while reviewing each permit application, but followed up that statement by saying any spills or incidents are up to the company’s themselves to report from there. Essentially Arthur is saying everything’s okay; the ODNR took a look at the site before things got rolling and it looked sufficient for business. After that they never look back, unless public discovery of contamination or some other event grows to enough outrage to warrant going through the motions of actually monitoring such facilities as they should be. This, like most everything these days, is due to cutbacks and incestuous ties between America’s alleged “watchdog” groups and the big money industries they are allegedly safeguarding the public against.
ODNR spokesperson Mark Bruce made this perfectly clear with his incredibly patronizing statement that state and federal laws already exist and apply to safeguard the public and environment while the ODNR writes up the new regulations for “recycling” facilities. Sure, but if no one is monitoring these companies and the companies are to report issues themselves, then there is no one enforcing the laws, which makes them useless, a mirage for the public to feel the illusion of safety just enough to keep sitting on their collective duffs. There is a reason why many in this country do not become active until they start hearing the NIMBY phrase being thrown around them. Most adopt the illusion of safety until something strikes up in their own backyards.
This is not to say one should live in fear (far from it!) but rather, simply the need to acknowledge the reality of the culture, society and environment in which we live in order to understand it, address it, refine it, and in the face of it all, live happy, beautiful, loving and supportive lives amongst our fellow sentient beings.
Bruce also tried to soft-shoe the industry’s stigma onto others by claiming radioactive fracking waste is no different than waste from other industries. It’s no surprise the public remains apprehensive.
“These are facilities handling some of the most-dangerous waste streams from the fracking industry, and they exist in a complete black hole where there are no standards, there’s no permit, there’s no public notice.”
Bruce does claim, however, that the ODNR is monitoring the “recycling” facilities through alleged inspections and communication with the industry.
“We can’t make people follow the law, but if they don’t, we’ll take enforcement action against them.”
If the state of Ohio is anything like the state of Michigan, it’s very easy to believe the ODNR is speaking with the industry, but with the lack of funding and manpower rampant around the Midwest, especially in such “watchdog” organizations as the EPA, etc., the likelihood that these sites are truly being inspected on anything close to a regular basis is more than likely a blatant lie. Don’t take this articles’ word for it, though. Let’s hear from folks in Ohio living it every day. They’ll tell you just like it is without the corporate spin and incentive — just people caught up in the sludge of capitalism, doing their best to live their lives and keep their heads above water.
They’re just hoping that water isn’t radioactive.