YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Although state investigators believe there is a potential link between recent minor earthquakes and gas wells in Poland Township, members of a local environmental group are still waiting for more information.
Anti-fracking activist Ray Beiersdorfer and others with Frack Free Mahoning Valley gathered in front of City Hall in Youngstown Wednesday saying the public needs to know where other faults may lie and how close local drilling operations, especially those using hydraulic fracturing, are coming to them.
“I have to do a public records request in order to get data,” said anti-fracking activist Ray Beiersdorfer. “If it is occurring in the Utica shale, in the Paleozoic rock, that opens another set of problems. That means that there are potential earthquake faults in the area where they are trying to frack to get the shale gas.”
State officials stress they will not allow new fracking within three miles of the Poland wells until it can be shown that drilling nearby is safe. Activists argue the state’s response is why their amendment banning the practice in Youngstown is needed.
“I do not believe we will be able to specifically determine the depths of it based on the data that we do have,” said Mark Bruce, public information officer with Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally said he is also concerned about the environment but said changing the charter isn’t the answer.
“I just don’t see this particular charter amendment; the benefits outweighing what I think are the potential long term financial costs to the city of Youngstown,” said McNally.
That balance between the local economy and the environment is likely to determine whether the efforts of groups such as Frack Free Mahoning Valley and their proposed charter amendment will succeed.
In the meantime, activists and residents say they are alarmed with the new business that has been given permission to process oilfield waste in Youngstown which will include radioactive materials.
Industrial Waste Control was granted a temporary authorization permit by the ODNR to process material and waste from drilling sites.
The facility is located in the old USX Industrial Park off Division Street. Among the items to be handled is radioactive elements brought out of the ground during the fracking process.
“It is coming in there, and it is putting our health at risk,” said Cheryl Mshar of Youngstown. “Our children, our neighborhoods, they are making Youngstown an experiment.”
Mshar lives about a quarter of a mile from the processing plant. She is one of many residents who have filed an appeal against the company’s permits.
Bruce said while Industrial Waste Control is allowed to operate, the company will need to obtain updated permits in the future to stay in business.