Ohio To Allow Underground Pools Of Fracking Water
By Sara Jerome
Ohio plans to implement looser wastewater regulations at fracking sites starting next year.
Under existing rules, fracking wastewater must be stored in above-ground, steel tanks before it is reused or disposed of, according to The Youngstown Vindicator. But a provision in the most recent state budget will lift that rule in January.
This means oil and gas companies will have permission to create giant, underground wastewater pits (also known as lagoons or impoundments). The pits are sometimes larger than football fields, holding millions of gallons of wastewater underground, the report said. Pennsylvania and West Virginia already allow this practice.
Wastewater from fracking sites is contaminated with "chemicals, toxic metals and radium that come up from shale wells," The Columbus Dispatch explained. "Companies clean the water of pollutants so it can be recycled to frack new wells."
“We are putting in a process to outline their standards of construction [for the pits] and their length of use,” said Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, in the Dispatch.
Environmentalists say this storage method poses a threat to groundwater, and some regulators share the concern. Wyoming, for instance, is writing rules to protect groundwater from fracking chemicals, Water Online previously reported.
Tom Stewart, an official with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, tried to offer reassurance about the storage pits, saying plastic liners will prevent leaks and treatment will remove pollutants from the water.
The companies "want to clean it up and use it again,” Stewart said in the Dispatch. “That means getting the water back to as fresh a state as possible.”
Regulations governing the lagoons are now being discussed.
The Canton Rep reported: "Geologists and engineers are drafting rules that will specify design standards, the kind of material used to line the lagoons and how long the lagoons can be used." The rules will be subject to public hearings.
The Vindicator described how indispensable local water resources are to the process of fracking.
"A shale well typically requires between 1 million and 8 million gallons of water to complete," the report said. "Water from the wells generally comes from nearby, either from a public water supply, pond or lake. Trucks and pipelines are required to carry the resource to the drilling site."
Image credit: "Natural Gas Site," © 2012 Lars Plougmann, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en