Image submitted.

Making Waves — Ohio

May 8, 2024

While climate problems may seem too big to tackle, people all around this great nation are taking action. This week’s column looks at OHIO and the question is: How to respond when state agencies and laws run contrary to efforts by communities to ensure that present/future citizens have clean water, healthy soils, and viable ecosystems to support life?

An Ohio story, from the early 1800s: as a youngster growing up in Youngstown, Timothy Woodbridge lost his older brother to a tragic swimming accident in the Mahoning River when the boys took an ill-advised swim in its turbulent waters. Not being able to save his brother may have influenced Timothy’s decision to pursue a medical career. A genealogical reveal: Timothy Woodbridge (1810-1892) is my great-great-grandfather. I’m 5th generation Buckeye-born, with deep roots in The Steel Valley. Dr. Woodbridge, a surgeon, practiced medicine in pre-industrial Youngstown from his cabin, now preserved as the historic Old Log Cabin in Mill Creek Park. Mill Creek flows into the Mahoning.

What would my great-great-grandfather think of the current dangers of swimming in the Mahoning River, which have less to do with the force of water than what’s dissolved in it? What would he make of this statement, attributed to Youngstown business owner Benedict Lupo (1950-2018), convicted of dumping no less than 126,000 gallons of toxic waste into a storm drain, eventually bleeding into the Mahoning River watershed, in 2012-2013?

“… I’ll burn a thousand trees, kill ten thousand fish, and poison a million water wells before I let this company die.”

The effluent Lupo dumped was fracking fluid or brine. It contained salt water, crude oil, and toxins including benzene, toluene, and known human carcinogens, as well as radioactive drilling mud. When the oil and gas industry switched to fracking (because repositories of oil are finite), the volume of toxic waste by-products increased exponentially. The wells they use are Class II Injection Wells (over 254 disposal wells in OH compared with 18 in PA). FYI: yipes! Fracking brine is also marketed as a roadway deicer (search on AquaSalina).

Ohio is a magnet for fracking waste generated in surrounding states; it often uses abandoned injection wells for underground disposal. This arrangement has been facilitated by fossil fuel interests, which seem to predominate in the Ohio legislature. This prompted a coalition of over 2 dozen Ohio environmental groups to recently petition the EPA, to revoke the primacy of the OH State Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR), asserting they aren’t doing enough to protect residents’ rights to clean drinking water.

You’ll have to listen to this week’s podcast to get the full story. A lawyer, a Lakota tribeswoman, and a community organizer discuss the goal of the petition. They effectively lay out the difference between federal and state control of drill permitting and how it can impact drinking water supplies. It details the effects of fracking waste on the environment. Finally, it looks at the consequences of no public input relating to the regulation of toxic drilling wastes. Public health tragedies abound, as it is sometimes a full year before people know their drinking water has been compromised. The discussion starts slow but gets more interesting as it goes. Learn about the legislative barriers a state can put up against citizens’ clean water rights, and why knowing how your elected leaders vote on this matters.
Podcast: GrassRoot Ohio (Nov. 22, 2022)
Episode: OH Enviro Coalition Petition [29 mins]

Let me know if you have a podcast to recommend, have a comment about my column, or have trouble finding a particular podcast I’ve mentioned. Happy listening!
[email protected]

Note: This column, part of a series looking at examples of positive climate action, state-by-state, first appeared in the Forest County News Journal 02-08-2023. If you are interested in this state’s topic, check online for updated news, as a lot may have changed in a year and a quarter.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Subscribe to our newsletter

White Cane Coffee presents Coffee & a Conversation

Don't Miss