Will Ohio Be the Dumping Ground for Fracking Wastewater?
It’s game on for “the black gold rush” in America. The pell-mell rush to develop oil and gas deposits locked in deep shale formations buried thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface, that is. And if the shale gas “play” pans out as expected, Ohio may become an unwitting dumping ground for billions of gallons of toxic wastewater generated by other states’ drilling operations.
A vast mother-load of liquid fossil fuels underlie Ohio and its neighbors to the east. And if industry estimates are to be believed, unlocking these energy stores promises a bonanza of jobs and economic growth. One sunny industry report claims more than 200,000 jobs and $12 billion in wages, salary and personal income are headed Ohio’s way, alone, if we drill early and often.
It’s that sort of heady talk that is turning the heads of state leaders, Republican and Democrat, alike. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is the Buckeye State’s oil and gas’ cheerleader in residence, urging full-out development of this buried treasure with proper environmental controls.
And unless you live under a rock, you now are familiar with the attending f-word—fracking. It’s shorthand for high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Introduced only a few years ago, this controversial technology now accounts for nearly a third of all the natural gas produced in the U.S.
Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water and sand for each well that is drilled first vertically and then horizontally into the Marcellus and Utica geologic formations. Mixed in with the water is a secret recipe of chemicals (some benign, some very toxic) that lubricate the shale formation. A series of controlled explosions fracture or break apart the shale, opening tiny cracks to allow the oil and gas to flow.
About 15 percent of that water comes back up is tainted with salt, drilling chemicals and hazardous metals. After they’re fracked, the wells continue to produce brine that contains higher concentrations of salt, metals and minerals. During the first quarter of 2011, nearly half the brine that went into disposal wells in Ohio came from Pennsylvania and other states, according to state officials. That’s 1.18 million barrels of brine, enough to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
For months, industry spin doctors have assured one and all that Ohio has some of the toughest regulations on planet Earth to control oil and gas drilling. They’d have you believe that Ohio has done something that officials in neighboring Pennsylvania—a state racked by fracking incidents—somehow couldn’t figure out.
These reassurances, of course, remain to be seen. To date, only a handful of wells have been horizontally fracked in Ohio. But that will soon change. To get ahead of the coming wave, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is planning to unveil a series of new rules and regulations to guide fracking in Ohio.
What is for certain, though, is that Ohio is in store to accept millions of barrels of salty and chemical laden wastewater—the residue left over from fracking. And not just from drilling sites in Ohio, but from nearby states, too. That’s because Ohio is home to 170 underground injection wells—empty geologic formations that Mother Nature has left deep beneath the Earth’s surface, that man has figured out a way to inject with pressurized waste.
Frack waste water includes a toxic mix of byproducts, including known and suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins, and even naturally-occurring radioactive materials— stuff like benzene, lead, ethylene glycol, boric acid, uranium, strontium and radon.
In addition, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering air pollution controls on oil and gas drilling that may not be strong enough to protect your health. Regulators in Pennsylvania have documented that oil and gas fracking sites emit tons of dangerous volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide emissions—a key ingredient in the formation of ozone smog.
While the proposed regulations are a step forward, they address emissions from the fracking stage only (ignoring the drilling stage) and take a one size fits all approach. Letters are needed to encourage the Ohio EPA to adopt strong air quality protections to protect people from dangerous fracking pollution.
For more information or to send a letter to the Ohio EPA, click here.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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