A letter on the Marietta Times May 31 opinion page chastised those she characterized as "irked" at hydraulic fracturing. The writer provided the same information that does not become less misleading because of constant repetition. Actually, horizontal fracturing has not been used at all on the Wayne National Forest or, until fairly recently, anywhere in the Appalachian Basin. The lack of transparency in establishing regulations and in writing legislation that seems to have closely followed the wishes of the companies involved does nothing to reassure those whose safe water supplies would be destroyed should something go wrong. It is easy to deride such concerns if one receives water from a public water supply but if one's water source is from a well or spring, their closer connection to the land and their knowledge of the importance of protecting that water supply at all costs does give them a different perspective and drilling companies would do well to recognize that.
The public does not need to be reminded of the tragedy that occurred just over a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico and news of pipelines leaking thousands of gallons of oil occur on a weekly basis. Accidents happen and we would all be better off if regulations were written to protect the resources and the residents at least equal to the companies involved - and the companies would be better served in the long run.
Just a few months ago the idea that injection wells could cause earthquakes was the source of merriment in some circles. It has happened.
The May 31 letter ends by referring to the potential for newly created jobs. The last thing Appalachia needs is further degradation of its resources. Because of the efforts of USEPA and OEPA, air quality is improving. While, to date anyway, no one claims the mercury and other air pollutants are making our children brighter and healthier, there is still denial that potential job creators are bypassing this area because of such environmental concerns. The chemical industry moved into the valley 60 years ago because of the water quantity and quality. It would be foolhardy to take a chance with such an important resource.
CYTEC owns an industrial site on East Greene St. that has been closed for a number of years. While it was in operation, waste materials were disposed of more casually than would be permitted today. The methods used were acceptable at that time and the expense of cleaning up has been and will continue to be borne by current owners. If someone had suggested air and water quality were at risk (assuming analytical methods would have been available to test for the very small quantities required to make whole bodies of water unusable) such suggestions would probably have been scorned. Now, a community panel has been established by CYTEC to help determine what level of clean-up is acceptable after hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been expended. Wouldn't it be fine if that ounce of prevention had been used?
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is to be congratulated. They listened to concerned residents and they have asked the U.S. Geological Survey to investigate the amount of water that may be withdrawn from the Conservancy lakes without detrimental effect to the ecosystem. The attention to public concern, the request for science-based information and the transparency combine to be an example government bodies would be better to follow.
Gas and oil have been trapped in the deep shales for millions of years (with the exception of that which has migrated upward into other formations) and it is not going to disappear tomorrow. The unholy haste to extract that gas and oil does nothing to reassure those concerned about the future economic well-being of the area. The market can absorb only so much oil and gas at a time so there is time to take the long view and make sure its extraction is done safely. The value will only increase. Methods have improved just in the short time this new boom has existed and they will continue to improve as long as there is a need.
If this technology had been known 30 years ago, would there be anything left now? The history of resource extraction is to extract and move on and leave the community to clean up the resulting damaged and, in many cases, unusable land. Is it any surprise that people are concerned about the land, long term economic development and the availability of natural resources for future generations?
Marilyn Ortt of 701 Colegate Drive, Marietta, is a member of the Marietta City Tree Commission. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.