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Concerns shared regarding air, water quality

Lea Harper of Bowling Green, Ohio, talks at a Belmont County Board of Health meeting Monday about air and water problems stemming from fracking. Listening are health department employees, from left, Rich Lucas and Katibeth Hudak and Linda Mehl. Photo by Linda Comins

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Two environmental advocates from Ohio met Monday with the Belmont County Board of Health to express concern over fracking operations and a proposed ethane cracker plant.

Lea Harper of Bowling Green and Bev Reed of Bridgeport spoke about the Fresh Water Accountability Project and other efforts to protect air and water quality in the Ohio Valley. Board members thanked Harper and Reed for their presentation, but made no further comment on the issue.

Harper said her family moved from Guernsey County because of benzene emissions from gas well pads. She said air and water quality at fracking pads and compressor stations aren’t monitored as operators of these facilities self-report to regulatory agencies.

The region faces “an even greater problem” with wastewater, especially if an ethane cracker plant is built at Dilles Bottom, Harper predicted.

“Nobody wants the waste, but that’s coming here,” she said.

“We need a better vision for the valley,” Harper said, one that “is not as impactful for clean air and water” and “more sustainable and not tied to a boom/bust industry.”

Reed, a registered nurse, said fracking regulations “just aren’t adequate.” She warned that air and water problems “could increase exponentially if this cracker plant goes online.”

Construction of an ethane cracker plant “would provide a short-term bump (to the economy), but this is not what the valley needs,” Reed said.

Reed suggested that board of health members “keep an open mind and think of ways we can work together.”

She added that representatives of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project want to help Ohio Valley residents with a health impact assessment.

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