Environmental groups say more must be done to ensure that Ohio does not become the next "frontier of fracking." Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, the drilling method commonly known as "fracking," involves injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into deep underground wells to break up rock and release natural gas.
While supporters say it provides a substantial source of energy, some of the chemicals are toxic and the process is hazardous to the environment, says Matt Trokan, water conservation coordinator for the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter.
"Fracking is very different than conventional drilling and it threatens our water and our air, particularly the disposal of waste water from the fracking activities."
Currently there are 40 horizontally-fractured wells in Ohio — and 4,000 more expected in the next four years. Natural gas companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used in fracking, and Trokan says the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency cannot properly monitor all the horizontal drilling and wastewater disposal sites. His group and others insist more research is needed, along with better policies and regulations to ensure public and environmental health.
Supporters say the deep drilling and lined well shafts provide ample protection for groundwater. They claim there is no substantiated evidence of any problems, and that the economic potential for Ohio outweighs any potential environmental risk.
Eastern Ohio is where most of the fracking activity is now taking place, but Trokan says it's of statewide concern because it affects watersheds across the state.
"Right now, the waste water is going into disposal wells, which are located throughout Ohio, and a lot of people get their drinking water from the Ohio River and Lake Erie, which can be affected by fracking — not just in Ohio, but by other states as well."
Trokan says the Sierra Club is raising public awareness of the drilling method and encouraging citizens to monitor their own water to detect changes in quality. Training sessions with free water monitoring kits are being held.
More information is online at ohiosierrclub.org.