Doctors, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical services, police, and haz-mat teams all need to treat victims quickly and also be able to alert others of health dangers. Yet drillers from Texas and Oklahoma have invaded our area to carry out the very questionable practice called fracking. There are many questions being asked about the fracking issue, but very few answers.
Toxic chemicals are being forced into the ground with the possibility of poisoning our water supply while polluting our air. We also will have to face the fact that these companies, when they move on, will leave our area a dumpsite. The federal Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act requires facilities that use, store, or make hazardous substances to report them to state and county emergency planners, and also to fire departments.
Why is this not happening? Companies can claim chemicals used in their processes a trade secret so they can ignore the disclosure process. Ohio law gives these companies the green light regardless of the potential harm to first responders, and the citizens living in the area. New laws need to change the position that the state of Ohio takes in regard to the oil and gas industry.
In January, State Senator Michael Skindell (Cleveland) and State Representative Robert Hagan (Youngstown) introduced the Fracking Emergency Medical Right to Know Act. Oil and gas drillers would have to operate under the same rules other industries do to create a practical way for doctors, nurses, and emergency responders to know in advance what toxic chemicals they are dealing with, and it would remove the gag order doctors are bound by. Doctors who find out what chemicals are being used are bound by a gag order not to warn others about what they have been exposed to.
I am urging citizens in southeast Ohio to contact their representatives asking them to support the Emergency Medical Right to Know Act. It is imperative that we make changes to the current law now in place, and to make these changes we, as citizens, have to keep the issue up front by writing letters to the editor supporting our first responders. Word of mouth, and becoming advocates for a law demanding disclosure of toxic chemicals is the right thing to do. The actions we take now may help us to avoid an environmental disaster.