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Research Maps Ohio Water Supplies. Fracking Activity

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017   

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The importance of safe drinking water has become a pressing issue in recent years after lead contamination and algal blooms tainted supplies in Ohio. A new report sheds light on what some see as another possible threat: oil and gas drilling.

Great Lakes program coordinator for FracTracker Alliance Ted Auch says given the growing concerns over containment of hydraulically fractured and Class II injection wells, the group assessed the proximity of the infrastructure to public water supplies.

"Ohio and the Great Lakes value fresh water," he said. "We have an abundance of fresh water, but if we compromise it and we continue to take it out of the surface and put it into the geology in the name of energy extraction, there's going to be serious questions, there's going to be serious costs associated with that."

The research found 13 public water systems in a half-mile of Class II waste-disposal wells and 18 within a half-mile of permitted Utica wells. Within one mile, there are dozens of public water systems serving 18,000 to 61,000 Ohioans.

A recent industry study showed Utica Shale oil production jumped almost 500 percent in Ohio since 2013, and Auch says water demand from the industry is rising about 16 percent each year. He says this is putting pressure on eastern Ohio water supplies, with little water quality or well security information.

"Even if there was a policy in place to safeguard public water supplies, the lack of real-time data and monitoring on an oil and gas well and injection well front makes me worried because even if you have a good policy but you don't have the data to kind of inform that, then where are you?" he asked. "So we're kind of flying blind."

Auch says these questions are especially crucial in areas like the Muskingum River Watershed in southeast Ohio. The report highlights a recent water-withdrawal agreement there that will increase Class II injection wells in communities where the industry already has extracted the equivalent of more than 14 percent of residential water.

"The Muskingum Watershed is a prime example of that struggle between wanting to sell water to the oil and gas industry and generating revenue and the demand of existing residents and farmers and the like in these watersheds. And I think that struggle is going to come to a head in the next couple of years."

Auch notes the alliance will be monitoring these spatial relationships as the rate of fracking is expected to accelerate with the Trump administration's support for increased oil and gas production.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.


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