A very dangerous piece of legislation is currently being considered by the Ohio House. Rep. Jay Edwards supports HB 393, which would allow oil and gas waste to be “processed” for sale in stores for deicing Ohio roads, sidewalks, and even your own front steps. Athens City Council has already passed a resolution opposing the Senate version (SB 165). I urge all Mr. Edwards’ constituents to educate him on the disastrous implications for this dangerous bill.
Oil and gas waste can hundreds of toxic ingredients, many undisclosed (thanks to trade secrets and weak Ohio and federal regulation). Most are not subject to government regulation or health standards, although most have known health impacts. In one study by Endocrine Disruption Exchange of 980 products used in oil and gas extraction, 90% had at least one known health effect. Nearly half the products contained at least one chemical considered an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system, including development and reproduction, and which can have severe lifelong effects on sensitive populations, like babies and children, even at extremely low doses).
Oil and gas waste is more toxic even than the chemicals used to drill and stimulate wells, as authors of the report cited above documented: Health effects of forty chemicals and heavy metals studied from New Mexico oil and gas waste evaporation pits “produced a health profile even more hazardous than the pattern produced by the drilling and fracking chemicals.” In fact, “98% of the 40 chemicals found in the pits are listed on USEPA’s 2005 CERCLA (Superfund) list and 73% are on the 2006 EPCRA List of Lists of reportable toxic chemicals. Of the nine chemicals found to exceed the New Mexico state limits, all are on the CERCLA list and all but one are on the EPCRA List of Lists.”
There are no provisions in the bill to fully assess the composition or even do limited testing on an ongoing basis, even though oil and gas waste chemicals and toxicity vary from well to well and over time. The bill even sets out restrictions on government regulation of the very activities it would enable, restricting regulation to only very limited testing and infrequent monitoring of limited parameters. Safety would therefore be legally impossible to even strive for, let alone ensure. There is not even a requirement that testing be by an Ohio-EPA certified lab. With its provision that “[t]he chief shall not adopt rules or establish or impose additional requirements applicable to commodities governed by division (C)(9)(a) of this section,” the law makes it legally impossible to set higher standards.
Oil and gas waste is often highly radioactive and contains heavy metals. The bill does not provide any standards for monitoring of these hazards, let alone their removal. Processing waste to completely remove this contamination would obviously be technically very difficult (if even possible) and would certainly not be cheap. But since the bill doesn’t require such a standard, it’s obviously not expected to be met! Even evaluating the presence of these contaminants is very expensive. Who would pay for that? Oh, right, never mind, it’s not required and under this bill can NEVER be required!
Even processed conventional oil and gas waste can contain heavy metal and radiologicals. A recent Duke University study found radioactive materials at the bottom of three PA waterways from treated conventional oil and gas wastes. According to Duke University professor and a study author, Dr. Avner Vengosh, “Despite the fact that conventional oil and gas wastewater is treated to reduce its radium content, we still found high levels of radioactive build-up in the stream sediments we sampled.” A report on the study in Phys.org also explained, “The level of radiation found in stream sediments at the disposal sites was about 650 times higher than radiation in upstream sediments. In some cases, it even exceeded the radioactivity level that requires disposal only at federally designated radioactive waste disposal sites.” According to the US EPA, “Radium and radon are potent human carcinogens. Uranium may cause lung cancer and tumors of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues.” Uranium is higher in Utica than in Marcellus shale. Its dangers have been less studied.
When spread on the ground for deicing or dust control, radioactive dust can become airborne and be inhaled or deposited on crops or pastures, so that humans also ingest it from contaminated produce or animal products. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years. See also Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice’s letter to the Energy and Nat. Res. Committee on SB 165 on the extreme dangers of spreading conventional oil and gas waste. Please urge Mr. Edwards to reconsider his support for this dangerous bill, with its fatal implications for Ohioans’ health and wellbeing, ph: (614) 466-2158; firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.