Frack waste barging puts our water at risk

Dear Editor,

Would you drink a glass of fracking wastewater?

We wouldn’t, either.

But the oil and gas industry’s latest maneuver places the Ohio River, a drinking water source for 5 million people, one spill away from fracking waste contamination.

According to industry reports, the DeepRock Disposal Solutions barge terminal, located near Marietta, Ohio, was scheduled to begin receiving barges filled with hazardous fracking brine and condensate in the first quarter of 2021.

Fracking wastewater can contain a mixture of toxic additives, heavy metals, and even radioactive particles. Radium-226 and radium-228, both found in brine waste, are known carcinogens and can lead to bone, liver, and breast cancer at high concentrations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Secret, proprietary chemicals in fracking waste are also known to be extremely hazardous to people and aquatic life.

To date, this dangerous wastewater has generally been transported throughout the Ohio Valley via heavy-duty tanker trucks, which clog local traffic and wear down small-town roads.

Now, DeepRock and a proposed network of barge terminals could begin taking radioactive fracking waste off our streets and onto our river — en masse.

Industry sources claim that a single barge can carry the equivalent of 220 truckloads of wastewater.

What would happen if all that waste were to spill in transit?

Barging accidents happen, and relatively frequently, too: in 2014, a barge spilled about 5,000 gallons of oil into the Ohio River 20 miles southeast of Cincinnati, generating a noxious, industrial odor and forcing authorities to close traffic along a 15-mile stretch of the river.

In 2017, a barge holding more than 300,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer broke in half just south of Cincinnati, threatening water supplies downstream.

A year later, seven coal-carrying barges hit the Clark Memorial Bridge near downtown Louisville, releasing thousands of tons of coal into local drinking water supplies.

As wastewater production and transport ramps up and extreme weather makes the river increasingly more difficult to traverse, there’s an increasing likelihood that a fracking waste barge could hit a snag and dump its toxic contents — a single barge can carry up to 24,000 barrels of waste, the industry claims — into our water supply.

And if it does, we don’t know which agencies would be responsible for responding to such a spill or whether those agencies could successfully collaborate to address the serious environmental and public health hazards that would accompany serious spillage.

Even worse, in the event of a spill, regional water treatment facilities are unequipped to fully decontaminate drinking water supplies.

Unlike coal or oil, the radioactive chemicals in fracking waste cannot currently be filtered out with the technology and equipment available to facilities located in the Ohio River Valley.

Our drinking water is a precious and irreplaceable resource. Let’s treat it as such.

Please join us in opposing the barging of fracking waste along the Ohio River: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/no-barging-of-radioactive-oil-gas-waste-on-the-ohio-river.

Ben Hunkler


Concerned Ohio River Residents



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