Local activists continue to hold their breath as a decision still pends to allow a barge dock for fracking waste to be built in their area.
In October 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard announced plans that would allow for the shipment of frack waste down the Ohio River by barges. In an effort to beat the competition, GreenHunter Water LLC, a Texas-based corporation dealing in frack waste, sent a proposal to The Army Corps. of Engineers earlier this year for permission to build a barge dock and to operate two barges along the Ohio River in Meigs County, one county over from Athens. Between GreenHunter’s two barges, about 42 million gallons can be hauled at once along the river.
Environmental groups, such as the Athens County Fracking Action Network, rounded up comments for both the Coast Guard and the Army Corps. of Engineers in hopes to stop both proposed ideas. ACFAN members worry that carrying millions of gallons of frack waste along the river puts the water supply at risk.
“We should be able to say what we want in this community,” Said Andrea Reik, local ACFAN member. “The river is 981 miles long. It’s a site for water, recreation, shipping, fishing… it needs to be protected. So, when you start talking about barging on the river, it raises concerns.”
According to the Ohio River Foundation, over 25 million people rely on the Ohio River for fresh water across the nation. It is estimated that three million of those who rely on the river reside in Ohio.
Several fracking related incidents have threatened the water supply in recent years. In June 2014, an explosion at a drilling site in Monroe County lead to the evacuation of 25 families. It was later found that the explosion, causing about 70 thousand fish to die, contaminated tributaries of the Ohio River.
“Can you imagine if a situation like that [Munroe County] happened here?” Reik said.
Greg Gibson, owner Gibson Ridge Farm and resident of Meigs County, said he is concerned about more than just the water in his area.
“The roads and bridges will all be destroyed by the trucks,” Gibson said. “And it’s up to the [fracking] companies whether they want to fix them or not.”
There is also major concern about the destruction of the habitat, not only at the site, but along the entire river. The proposal by GreenHunter lists several endangered mussel species that could potentially be impacted by the construction of the dock. But, the proposal does state that GreenHunter would work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required by law.
In their comments to the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, residents stated that they wanted not only more time to raise public awareness, but to have an Environmental Impact Assessment conducted before allowing the dock to be built and waste to be shipped along the river.
“I feel like we are under siege by water, by truckers, by everything,” said Reik. “This is why it’s important to educate and get the word out.”
Barging frack waste has yet to be approved by the Coast Guard, and the proposal by GreenHunter is still pending.