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Concerns Continue over Fracking Waste on the Ohio River

PHOTO:The recent West Virginia chemical spill is heightening concerns about a U.S. Coast Guard proposal to allow the waste from hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to be shipped on waterways, including the Ohio River. Photo courtesy of noaa.gov.
PHOTO:The recent West Virginia chemical spill is heightening concerns about a U.S. Coast Guard proposal to allow the waste from hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to be shipped on waterways, including the Ohio River. Photo courtesy of noaa.gov.
January 23, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the wake of the recent chemical spill in West Virginia that tainted the water supply for 300,000 people, there's a call to beef up protections for water Ohioans depend on.

The U.S. Coast Guard is expected to decide soon on whether to allow waste from fracking to be shipped along U.S. waterways, including the Ohio River.

Jim O'Reilly, a professor of public health and law at the University of Cincinnati, says if there were an accident, it would affect the water supply for dozens of communities.

"The people who pay for their water coming from the Ohio River expect a quality that we can serve to our children, not a chemical residue and radioactive residue from the waste that's drilled in the fracking wells of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia," he says.

Those in favor say the practice is safer than transportation by truck and rail, allows for larger quantities of waste to be moved and creates jobs in the industry.

Those opposed say there are too many risks involved in the waste full of toxic chemicals and radioactive materials.

More than 23,000 people have signed a petition opposing the Coast Guard's recommendations and asking for tighter regulations.

O'Reilly says setting regulations for water routes for shipping waste would be ideal, but it's been done through a policy letter – and he claims there's a lack of accountability.

"It's especially irresponsible,” he maintains. “The Coast Guard is doing it by a back-door, using policy letter rather than do what most agencies do, which is adopt a regulation after using an environmental impact statement."

The Coast Guard proposal would require each barge load to be tested before shipment.

O'Reilly says that's not enough, because moving it down the river would expose people to the costly problems that could occur should there be an accident.

And he adds that it's the taxpayers who would pay instead of the fracking companies.

"Instead of cleaning the waste, they want to simply shove it under the rug, put it on a barge and ship it away,” he points out. “That risk of loss is significant.

“The companies involved in the drilling and fracking ought to pay to neutralize and clean up that waste before it goes anywhere and they're not willing to do that."

O'Reilly adds that the company responsible in the West Virginia spill, Freedom Industries, filed bankruptcy protection not long after the incident.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH