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Ohio Utica Shale

Group has concerns about new Youngstown waste plant

By Bob Downing Published: May 30, 2014

From Frack Free Mahoning Valley on Thursday:

FRACKFREE MAHONING VALLEY (FFM) RECEIVES NEW DOCUMENTS. FFM STILL HAS QUESTIONS AND SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT THE NEW RADIOACTIVE WASTE PLANT THAT PLANS TO STORE AND TREAT FRACKING WASTE IN THE HEART OF YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: FRACKFREE MAHONING VALLEY WILL HOLD A PUBLIC EDUCATIONAL TOWNHALL - STYLE MEETING REGARDING THE NEWLY “PERMITTED” RADIOACTIVE WASTE FACILITY ON THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 2014 AT THE FIRST UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF YOUNGSTOWN AT 1105 ELM STREET, YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO 44505 AT 7:00 PM TO 9:00PM.

SUMMARY: FRACKFREE MAHONING VALLEY (FFM) CALLS FOR THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (ODNR) TO REVOKE THE MARCH 6, 2014 240 SINTER COURT – RELATED “PERMIT” (ORDER NO. 2014-52) THEREBY STOPPING OPERATIONS WHILE INFORMATION IS GATHERED REGARDING THE ALLEGED SAFETY OF SUCH OPERATIONS.

 

 

Youngstown, Ohio, May 29, 2014 – Frackfree Mahoning Valley (FFM), a group of concerned citizens who oppose fracking and related processes, still has serious concerns and questions about the new radioactive waste plant that plans to store and treat potentially radioactive fracking waste in the heart of Youngstown, Ohio. FFM is holding a townhall-style meeting on Thursday June 5, 2014 to address some of these issues.

In an astonishing new development, FFM just received disconcerting documents on May 28, 2014 as a result of a public information request by Freshwater Accountability Project.These documents seem to show that Austin Masters Services is claiming trade secret protections regarding the unusual method they plan to use at the Youngstown facility to determine radioactive material levels, specifically TENORM. FFM asks how such a sensitive and important issue as determining radioactivity levels can be subject to trade secrets? This is an issue of public health and safety. No secrets should be allowed. How did the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) grant a license for what now appears to be a secret method? Has this method been properly validated by independent scientists?This is just another major reason to halt these operations now while crucial information about its safety is gathered, examined, and enforced.

Other big questions that still remain unanswered are: Why does it seem that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was rushing to get a radioactive waste facility permitted without public knowledge or even Youngstown City Council’s knowledge? Did ODNR fear that the public would not want this radioactive waste facility in their community if they knew about it ahead of time, or that due diligence involving public health experts and physicians would show that the operation is too high risk to operate in Youngstown near residential areas?

Does ODNR have the expertise to “regulate” radioactive material? We believe that they do not. Who does ODNR have on staff right now who is certified and scientifically qualified to monitor, regulate, and enforce rules in case there is any violation occurring?As far as we can determine, there are no pertinent ODNR new rules in place to regulate TENORM (technologically-enhanced naturally-occurring radioactive material), so how can there be any violation prevented if there are no rules?

These are just a few of the questions that FFM says the general public deserves to have answered and that should have been answered before ODNR permitted the operations in question at the plant.

FFM says ODNR should immediately revoke the “permit” for newly permitted operations at 240 Sinter Court based upon, in part, the risk to public health, safety, and welfare, and the fact that local officials and the community had not been fully informed or notified about the operation. Worker safety must be safeguarded. Operations permitted by the ODNR “Chief’s Order” , dated March 6, 2014, should immediately halt in the interest of safeguarding the public health, safety, and welfare.

Frackfree Mahoning Valley (FFM) says it is very troubling that local elected officials did not know about the existence of the ODNR “Chief’s Order” for this radioactive waste plant until very recently. There are still too many unknowns about this plant.

The existence of this operation was first revealed by a heroic and persistent concerned citizen, Teresa Mills of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, who used a public information request to get the information from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. If she had not been diligent, it is probable that our community would still not know what is happening in their midst.

It should not be this difficult for the public to get the information from the state regarding operations that carry high risk, especially since they involve the handling of radioactive materials. This is especially true when these operations are physically placed near residential areas close to homes, schools, and not far from the Northstar 1 injection well that is linked to over 100 earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio, including the now-famous 4.0 magnitude December 31, 2011 earthquake. Some nearby residents say they experienced damage to their homes as a result of the 4.0 magnitude quake.

Youngstown Mayor, John McNally, should take the lead and responsibility for doing proper due diligence to ascertain exactly what is going on at the 240 Sinter Court waste facility.Mayor McNally’s statements to the public on May 21, 2014 give the impression that he apparently accepts that the operation is safe even though he has not yet provided written scientific proof to the public that shows on what documentation he is basing his opinion. It is important to stress that this is a newly permitted operation. This company is attempting to do something that it, reportedly, has not done before. A Business Journal article referenced the Pennsylvania-based Austin Masters Services, the company that ODNR has “permitted” to deal with radioactive waste, in the following quote:

“The technology has been used for years in other industries, but this is the first time Austin Masters has tried to apply it to the oil and gas industry.”

(“Company Gets Permit to Handle Radioactive Waste,” by Dan O’Brien, Youngstown Business Journal, April 21, 2014 at:http://businessjournaldaily.com/drilling-down/company-gets-permit-handle-radioactive-waste-2014-4-21)

We repeat that due diligence should have been done before the plant was permitted. We understand that city officials were not notified by ODNR, but this is part of the problem for which we are now seeking fair and positive solutions. Why didn’t ODNR inform or notify Youngstown officials and the general public ahead of time?

In addition, most of the fracking waste that will be accepted at the new radioactive waste facility is probably coming from new unconventional horizontal fracking, possibly from out-of-state as well as from within Ohio. (This will also have to be ascertained). This fracking waste potentially comes from different sources than the kind of conventional vertical drilling many people are familiar with in Ohio. Therefore, this is a relatively new development in the situation that should be considered.

This is a very important point. Too frequently, some gas and oil industry representatives or politicians who state that “fracking has been going on for decades” are referring to a different kind of well, using decades-old drilling technology. In contrast, we are referring to the new, unconventional, horizontal, high pressure, high volume, slick water kind of fracking wells or drilling operations. This is different. This unconventional, new technology is only about a decade old. It is misleading for some politicians and industry representatives to repeatedly tell the public that industry has been fracking for sixty years and, thereby, imply that this new, unconventional, horizontal drilling is a proven and old technology. It is not. It does involve new technology. Misleading or misdirecting statements about how long the industry has been fracking must not go unchallenged.

Please see Dr. Anthony Ingraffea’s excellent explanation of the difference between unconventional wells vs. conventional wells at the following link:

http://frackfreemahoning.blogspot.com/2014/01/PLEASE-AllConcernedOhioCitizensContactODNR-TellStateToCeaseMendacityHypocrisyNOW.html

We request that Youngstown City Councilwoman Annie Gillam please follow through with her statement to attendees at the May 21, 2014 Youngstown City Council meeting to the effect that ODNR should be called in to explain the newly permitted waste operation to Youngstown City Council, local officials, and to the general public.

Furthermore, Youngstown City Councilman, Paul Drennen told WFMJ TV, in a May 21, 2014 news report:

“If there was something going on with this company and they weren’t following the rules or things were happening because of what they were doing that were harming the environment or individuals, yeah, as City Council, we would definitely push that up to the state level and the ODNR to make sure everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

FFM asks City Councilman Drennen: According to our research, there are no relevant, new, required ODNR rules in place to regulate TENORM at this facility. If you did not know that this operation was even happening in Youngstown, how can you be sure that they are not breaking the rules or potentially adversely affecting public health and safety?We ask that you please do take up this issue, based upon your statement to the media, and as an elected representative of the public interest. We respectfully request that you and Youngstown City Council do your due diligence and get feedback from independent scientists, physicians, lawyers, medical and public health professionals, and the general public as it pertains to this new operation. We as citizens cannot wait for an accident to occur before we act to protect our community from potential harm. We cannot act after damage has been done, especially if it is irreparable damage. We must be proactive to prevent harms or injustice in our communities.

In the interests of full transparency, we are respectfully requesting a presentation format for an ODNR meeting that would allow questions and dialogue between ODNR presenters and the public or independent experts in real time, preferably televised or otherwise broadcast or published, so that the public has access to the information that it needs to make informed decisions regarding our communities.

The bottom line is that there is no good, safe or fair way to “dispose” of the millions upon millions of gallons or tons of toxic, potentially radioactive fracking waste that is constantly being generated by the oil and gas industry. Where will all of the fracking waste go?The enormous amount or volume of oil and gas waste being produced is new and unprecedented. (Please see news article below). The industry must stop generating it.

“Radioactive Waste Booms With Fracking as New Rules Mulled,” by Alex Nussbaum, April 16, 2014, Bloomberg at:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-15/radioactive-waste-booms-with-oil-as-new-rules-mulled.html

The size and massive scale of planned industrialization related to fracking, related processes, and infrastructure is changing our American landscape and quality of life for millions of people. Not everyone welcomes this kind of change on a grand scale, especially when no one consulted nor fully informed the American people about risks and downsides to hydraulic fracturing. In fact, many people, especially those living near these operations, feel that unconventional, horizontal shale gas development and associated practices are unacceptable, a threat to their health and safety, and are a serious injustice that must be acknowledged and fairly resolved.

FFM says it does not want the 240 Sinter Court operation to act as a “magnet” for attracting even more potentially radioactive or toxic fracking waste to be trucked or otherwise transported through our neighborhoods and surrounding communities.More questions arise, such as the following:

Upon what routes is the waste being transported? How many fracking waste trucks are expected to travel through our neighborhoods and highways, and who will pay for any road damage or potential accidents – the taxpayers?Which landfills are being considered for taking this waste? Are there federal or state laws governing the transport of radioactive waste and, if yes, how will this be monitored and enforced? The citizens have the right to know this information since there are risks to public health and safety, especially in light of astonishing special exemptions for the gas and oil industry as it relates to trucking regulations.

(Please see “Deadliest Danger Isn’t at the Rig but on the Road,” by Ian Urbina, May 14, 2012, The New York Times at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/us/for-oil-workers-deadliest-danger-is-driving.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 ;

and:“Fracking boom producing deadly side effect,” May 5, 2014, Associated Press, on CBSNews at:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fracking-boom-producing-deadly-side-effect/)

To help get answers to some of these important questions, Frackfree Mahoning Valley will hold a public townhall – style meeting for residents and officials of Youngstown and all surrounding communities, including Poland, Boardman, Austintown, Struthers and more, since what Youngstown officials allow in the heart of the city potentially affects the public health, safety, and well-being of those communities. If this radioactive waste facility is permitted to operate, it will necessitate that (if not already in place) these same communities prepare emergency preparedness plans, evacuation plans, and first responder training at the taxpayer expense, apparently. Who is expected to pay for this?

The Frackfree Mahoning Valley townhall-style meeting on Thursday June 5, 2014, is open to the public.All media are invited to attend. The townhall meeting will be held from 7:00PM to 9:00PM at The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown at 1105 Elm Street, Youngstown, Ohio 44505. Frackfree Mahoning Valley will present information at the townhall, and there will be time for townhall attendees to ask questions and/or share their information and concerns in an effort to find positive solutions to our collective concerns.

We are urging surrounding community public officials, representatives, and citizens to please attend especially since the public are not yet informed of what routes the fracking waste will travel through if this plant is allowed to operate. Media and attendees from other states are also urged to attend.

FFM says that a May 27, 2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article includes issues relevant to the current situation in the Youngstown area:

See “Two more drilling sites found with Marcellus Shale sludge radioactivity in Washington County; DEP sees no threat,” by Don Hopey, May 27, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at:

http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/05/27/Two-more-containers-found-with-Marcellus-Shale-sludge-radioactivity-in-Washington-County/stories/201405270162#ixzz32yno8Pyp

For more information, to see documents, and to sign up to a free e-mail listserv to receive future updates, please visit:

www.frackfreeamerica.org

or you can find us on Facebook at:https://www.facebook.com/Frackfree

Also please see:Frackfree Mahoning Valley at:www.frackfreemahoning.blogspot.com

For media inquiries or more information, please contact Frackfree Mahoning Valley at:

234-201-0402or e-mail:frackfreemahoning@gmail.com

 

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ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

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Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

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Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

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Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

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Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.