Fracking’s growing ecological cost

By Zach Jones - - Mary Kuhlman - Ohio News Connection contributed to the story

The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing is increasing in Ohio and around the nation, according to new findings from the U.S. Geological Survey.

A USGS report found an average horizontal gas well consumed more than 5 million gallons of water in 2014, up from around 177,000 gallons in 2000.

Melanie Houston, director of water policy and environmental health with the advocacy group Ohio Environmental Council, says the fracking of Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Ohio put the state at the higher end of the spectrum of water use.

“It’s needed to be used at a higher percentage in the fracking fluids that are created, so unfortunately that means that we’re going to be tapping lots of different water resources from reservoirs and lakes to municipal water supplies to small streams and tributaries to feed this industry,” she explains.

Ted Auch, Great Lakes program coordinator at FracTracker Alliance, says he’s not surprised by the findings because his research found that fracking has used up to 7 percent of available water from the Muskingum Watershed. He says he’s troubled because the number is likely to exceed 10 percent in the next two years.

Houston says there are also concerns about potential contamination, as the water used in fracking is combined with chemicals and is disposed into deep underground injection wells.

Fracking in Richland County is not currently as prevalent as some areas of Ohio, however, the county has been identified as having an abundance of Utica shale, a resource that has been found to contain fossil fuels.

As more and more Marcellus shale resources are harvested, it is likely that companies will further expand Utica shale fracking operations into Richland County

Richland Soil and Water Conservation District Adminstrator John Hildreth offered some advice to residents considering leasing their land for fracking operations.

“We encourage any landowner to discuss options with an environmental attorney,” he said. “We have heard that a lease can also include storage of earthmoving equipment and material for unknown amounts of time. Landowners should also have legal input of drinking well contamination and periodic water testing extending beyond the end of extracting.”

Hildreth also expressed a concern for the water supply around fracking sites, stating that residents need to ensure there is recourse in place for companies in case of aquifer contaimnation.

He identified key information property owners need to consider before leasing their land to gas companies. They need to understand who responsible for maintaining, repairing driveways for operation trucks to enter and leave.

How the property will be managed during and after well extractions. And at end of lease or landowner ownership, will the property appreciate in value or depreciate.

By Zach Jones

Mary Kuhlman – Ohio News Connection contributed to the story

Reach Jones on Twitter @Bellville_Jones

Reach Jones on Twitter @Bellville_Jones