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The Children’s Center for Science & Technology in Youngstown hosted an unusual event just before Thanksgiving that was co-sponsored by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) and Radio Disney. The goal of this “interactive show” was to bring information on gas and oil exploration (fracking) in Ohio to younger audiences and parents. The topics covered in this event mimic the Teacher Workshop Program produced by OOGEEP that is currently used by thousands of teachers in all 88 counties of Ohio to educate students on energy exploration and development. Three other “Rocking in Ohio” events took place at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, the Washington County Fair in Marietta and the Wayne County Fair in Wooster. OOGEEP and Radio Disney proudly promote these events on their websites as opportunities for educational instruction and entertainment. While similar events are planned for other Ohio communities, the real question is why is Disney partnering with OOGEEP to brainwash the children of Ohio?
Less than a month after the Niles City Council passed a Citizens Rights Based Ban on fracking they did an about face. Under pressure from the oil and gas industry the council voted to rescind the community rights based ban. If the ban stood the city would no longer be able to sell water to the frackers and when they realized this, they saw what they think is a real money maker going down the drain, so to speak. While the City of Niles has bowed to the oil and gas industry, citizens in Oberlin voted no to this industrial extraction process in their community. In Athens, the city council voted to support the county council who opposed a proposed injection well for their community. And in Mansfield, the city voted unanimously to support a statewide ban on injection wells for wastewater generated by fracking.
Over 250 citizens gathered in Warren to protest the disposal of fracking waste in injection wells in Ohio. The protest was followed by a prayer service at an injection well. Ralliers learned that almost 8 billion gallons of oil and gas liquid waste has been injected into Ohio soils since 1978 much of it coming from out-of-state. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups including CHEJ.
Citizens from Frackfree Mahoning in Youngstown have gathered enough signatures to place a citizens rights base ban (to give local control) on fracking on the November ballot. Residents in Athens have also collected enough signatures to place a similar initiative on the ballot in November.
A class II injection well ban bill written by residents in Columbus was introduced by Reps. Denise Driehaus and Bob Hagan. The bill would ban all injection wells in the state. The bill would also ban the use of the current class II wells as well as stop the use of brine as a dust suppressant and de-icer in the state. The ban bill came out of a statewide meeting of Ohio grassroots groups sponsored by CHEJ and Buckeye Forest Council.
Citizens in Forest are concerned that they may have a possible cancer cluster. They are in the information gathering stage on local facilities that they fear may be responsible for the increase in cancer in their community. The group found that one facility installed a TCE batch degreaser prior to applying for a permit to do so.
People for Safe Water in Springfield are gathering support for their request to the US EPA for a change in the agency Record of Decision (ROD) for the Tremont Barrel Fill site, a Superfund Alternative site in Clark County. The site sits above a sole source aquifer from which 82,000 customers get their water. The barrel fill site is known to contain at least 51,500 drums of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, as well as some 300,000 gallons of bulk liquid waste.
A study by an assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State University, concluded that the volume of drilling wastes from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale is growing and threatening to overwhelm existing waste-handling infrastructure in Ohio. Pennsylvania generated about 20 million barrels (each holding 42 gallons) of wastewater in 2011, exporting over 7 million to Ohio. That same year, Ohio’s injection wells handled 12.8 million barrels, meaning that almost 60% of the waste handled came from PA. Projections for 2012 put the capacity of Ohio at 14 million barrels, but this increase is not enough to accommodate the nearly 6,400 Marcellus shale wells in PA. A moratorium or ban on injection wells in Ohio is desperately needed.
The City of Cincinnati voted unanimously to ban injection wells within the city limits. The ordinance does not mention oil and gas waste because the state has preempted local control on oil and gas facilities. Congratulations to the Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum for spearheading this successful effort.
Over 100 citizens showed their support for Madeline Fitch during her arraignment on 5th degree felony charges. Madeline was charged with inducing panic for locking herself to two 55 gallon drums filled with cement at the entrance of a class II waste water injection well in Athens, effectively blocking the entranceway and shutting down the well site. Fitch was demanding that the state test fracking wastewater and keep out-of-state fracking wastewater from coming into Ohio. This protest follows a march several weeks earlier to the statehouse by more than 1,000 people who oppose hydraulic fracturing, toxic wastewater injection wells, and the lack of policies that support a renewable energy future.
Save Our County (SOC) welcomed a report issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) on an accident that occurred last year at the Heritage-WTI hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool. The company was cited for numerous violations following two separate inspections including one deemed “willful” for failing to certify operating procedures for the safe handling of hazardous chemicals. A total of $150,000 in fines was levied. According to an OSHA press statement, “These violations basically mean that Heritage-WTI failed to create safety procedures and then review those procedures to ensure their effectiveness.” The inspections resulted from an accident in December of 2011 that killed one worker and injured another. SOC has been fighting to shut down the incinerator for more than 20 years and vows to continue until they succeed.
Citizens’ and environmental groups in Cleveland not only oppose the city’s proposal to build a new waste gasification plant but they are taking it a step farther. They are holding a symposium on recycling and composting to show the city that there are alternatives to incineration.
Fracking-350.org is on the road in Ohio doing workshops on fracking. In June the roadshow will reach its destination, the statehouse in Columbus. Come join us for Father’s Day as we tell the Ohio legislature that Ohio citizens say “Don’t Frack Ohio.”
The City of Mansfield is set to vote on a ban on injection wells within the city limits. The city will place an amendment to their charter on the ballot in the November elections. Citizens are gearing up to educate the community and get this amendment passed.
Organizers of the “Right to Wayne” celebrated when the National Forest Service (NFS) decided to halt plans to auction off drilling rights in Wayne National Forest near Athens. NFS wants time to study the environmental impact of natural gas hydrofracking that will go as deep as 20,000 feet. The decision came a day before the group hand delivered over 1,000 letters and petition signatures to NFS Supervisor Anne Carey objecting to the drilling.
Federal EPA Director, Lisa Jackson sent a letter to one of the local cancer families in Clyde informing them that the EPA is in the community taking samples and reviewing the health study conducted by the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Department of Health. Ms. Jackson informed the family that she will come to Clyde to discuss her agency’s findings.
After a brief period of relief, citizens in Wooster are once again inundated by noxious odors from EnviroClean Services, a wastewater treatment facility that specializes in treating industrial wastewater and sludge, and recycles waste oil. Residents took their complaints to City Hall where they expressed their anger to the city councilors who had heard this all too many times before. Our Neighborhood Matters is ramping up its efforts against the company. A citizens oversight panel will be formed that will include business leaders and a member representing the school in the neighborhood.
After CHEJ, the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Sierra Club working with citizens in Clyde developed draft cancer mapping legislation the residents gave the proposed bill to their local legislators. The cancer bill would require the state to make available to the public cancer rates by census track, create a map that shows the cancer rates in each census track, provide a summary of the cancer data, and identify census tracks with cancer, childhood cancer, and rates of rare cancers that are higher than the national average. The bill also includes a provision that would require the state to conduct air and water quality tests in census tracks where rates are increased. Clyde is home to a childhood cancer cluster is one of five confirmed cancer clusters in the state.
Over 150 citizens gathered at the Ohio Statehouse in May to lobby against hydrofracking in the state. Ohio Governor John Kasich, has said that the oil and gas boom that is about to be played out in Ohio is “a godsend.” Ohio citizens are not so convinced. Efforts are continuing to make the state a frack-free zone.
Representatives of Save Our County (SOC) in East Liverpool met with the East Liverpool Health District Board to discuss the possibility of conducting a local health study. This meeting followed a conversation between a research scientist from the University of Cincinnati that CHEJ introduced to SOC who is interested in conducting a human health study in East Liverpool. This spring the scientist will meet with East Liverpool resident’s to hear their concerns and to discuss different kinds of research that could be done. This same scientist is conducting an extensive study of the impacts of manganese on children in Marietta. Manganese was found in high levels by the USEPA in air monitors stationed at elementary schools in both East Liverpool and Marietta.
Residents from Clyde have been waiting for answers as to why some 39 children have been diagnosed with cancer in their area. They suspect that an underground system of caves and water in the area called “karst” may have something to do with it. The water within this karst formation is likely to be contaminated, and it has been known to communicate with the groundwater in the past, but no one knows the extent. The residents believe that testing the karst to determine whether it is communicating with the groundwater is critical to the childhood cancer investigation. They also want to know if the karst formation has been contaminated by the injection of hazardous waste into the ground by Waste Management not far from town.
CHEJ member group, Property Owners Want Equal Rights (POWER) and Ohio Citizen Action are doing more than protesting the proposed expansion of the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill in Cincinnati. The groups are offering alternatives they say will extend the life of the landfill without using more land, and challenging the community to rethink the way we dispose of our garbage in a 40-page report released by the groups, The Future is Now: A Citizens’ Audit of the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill. Ideas conclude a mix of advanced recycling techniques coupled with entrepreneurial uses for reusable waste. The groups believe that at least 50 percent of the trash could be diverted from the landfill thereby extending the life of the current footprint. See http://ohiocitizen.org/?p=3830 for a copy of the report.
The Green Environmental Coalition in Yellowsprings joined CHEJ and the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) in screening the documentary “Living Downstream” that features Dr. Sandra Steingraber. A packed house sat spell bound during the screening with many wanting more information on what they could do to change things. CHEJ and OEC presented information on the Toxic Substance Control Act, and its possible reform. Post cards are being gathered and will be presented to elected officials in Washington sometime in the coming year.
Our Neighborhood Matters hosted a meeting with CHEJ’s Lois Gibbs in Wooster to brainstorm ways to address their continuing problems with a hazardous wastewater treatment facility that is causing health problems due to odors. Lois also agreed to meet with the city attorney who wanted to talk about what their options might be. This meeting was part of a larger state tour by both CHEJ and the group Ohioans for Health, Environment, and Justice. Lois attended meetings in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Hooven, and Columbus.
Residents in Toledo held their first group meeting and formed the Port Clinton Citizens Action Committee. Citizens are concerned that a new school is being built on a site where sewage sludge has been disposed. The Ohio Department of Health is also doing a cancer cluster investigation of Port Clinton because a local citizen put out a request on Facebook for all those with cancer to contact her. The health department was not prepared for the huge response that was received on Facebook.
Chevron is responsible for a plume of benzene contaminated groundwater in the village of Hooven. The US EPA has found that volatile chemicals in the water are evaporating out of the groundwater passing through the soil and entering buildings in the town, including a school, through the process of vapor intrusion. This is a relatively newly acknowledged pathway of exposure.
Residents of Wooster continue to complain about the repugnant odor that is coming from the waste treatment plant run by Enviroclean. The people are up in arms about this odor that extends for miles past the plant and smells like rotten eggs. Although city officials have been pressured to shut down the plant, they have refused to close the facility because of Enviroclean’s positive economic influence. Recently the city stated the odor was in violation of the prescribed zoning permit and corrections were needed to sustain the permit. The city told the owner that the city would no longer tolerate this irritant permeating the area and agitating its residents. The city intends to ensure that the necessary improvements are made. Many believe the problem would have been dealt with sooner had Wooster’s “finer” neighborhoods been affected.
Environmental groups and residents across the state cheered when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the state is violating the Clean Air Act by letting small businesses ignore air pollution limits. The judge’s decision struck down a state law passed in 2006 that exempted small businesses like auto-body shops and gas stations that release less than 10 tons of air pollutants per year from all air pollution laws. The Clean Air Act requires businesses to comply if they generate more than 1.8 tons of air pollutants per year. The Sierra Club filed suit against the Ohio EPA for failing to enforce the Clean Air Act arguing that the state never got approval from EPA to raise the small business exemption from 1.8 to 10 tpy. The federal judge agreed and wrote in this decision, “The state violates an emission standard or limitation each time it fails to enforce it.”
Residents on the south side of Columbus welcomed the news that the Sanimax rendering plant was shutting down. The plant which turned animal carcasses, grease and used cooking oils into tallow and other products used in cosmetics and animal feed was purchased by Darling International, a Texas company that recycles food-processing byproducts. Darling then decided to shut down the operation. The plant had a history of bad odors and questions about cleanliness and was often the target of complaints from nearby residents. “I’m sure any residents within a mile radius of the plant are happy to see it go,” said Teresa Mills, an activist with the Buckeye Environmental Network. The plant was located in a residential neighborhood where it never should have been allowed.
The Mansfield Unit of the NAACP is investigating a possible Environmental Justice violation and is helping local residents organize to stop the Buckeye Industrial Mining Co. from strip mining next to the Clearview Golf Course, the only golf course in the United States that is designed, built, owned, and operated by an African-American. This course is designated as a National Historic Landmark site. The coal company applied for a zoning variance which requires a minimum 500 ft. buffer for strip mines from adjacent property and settled for a distance of 370 feet. Organizers are concerned that air emissions and surface water runoff from the mining operation will severely impact the golf course and the surrounding neighborhood. The NAACP and local residents are building support to oppose the issuing of the final permit by the state.
Residents in Nelson Township are getting organized to stop the land application of liquid waste by US Liquids, Inc. The company has requested a variance in their permit to dispose of waste liquids. The permit was granted by the Garrettsville Zoning Board with the stipulation that there be no smell or overnight storage. The owner is using an old turkey farm sewage treatment facility to process liquid waste. Residents are complaining about the smell, various permit violations and possible public health dangers. The owner has a poor record of managing and paying taxes, so the group is looking into Ohio’s “Bad Boy” laws. CHEJ is providing organizing support to the developing group.
Behr VOC Area Leaders (BVOCAL) worked with CHEJ to host an environmental justice town hall meeting in the McCook Field neighborhood in Dayton this past spring. Three years ago, people who live in this neighborhood learned that the nearby former Chrysler Airtemp plant, now owned by Behr, had leaked trichloroethylene (TCE), into the ground and that toxic vapors from the spill were coming up into homes at unsafe levels. Over half of the 400 homes that were tested were found to have elevated TCE; levels as high as 650 times the official “action level” were found. One school has already been closed. The USEPA made it a Superfund site in July. CHEJ is continuing to work with BVOCAL who want more homes tested.
The city of Cleveland celebrated the 40 year anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire of June 22, 1969. The consequence of an oil slick, debris, and other industrial pollutants, the fire drew attention to environmental concerns nationwide, leading eventually to the passage of the Clean Water Act. In the decades since the disaster, residents have witnessed drastic improvements in the river’s quality including lower pollution and bacteria levels. The anniversary provides a strong example of lessons learned in the continual movement for clean water and a safe environment.
CHEJ has joined with the Sierra Club and other Ohio based groups in Cleveland to oppose a variance requested by FirstEnergy Generation to discharge more mercury from its Lake Shore coal plant into Lake Erie. The groups organized a big push over Earth Day and got more than 600 signed postcards sent to the OEPA Director. The company has requested permission from the Ohio EPA to exceed science-based limits on mercury and copper levels in the plant’s wastewater discharge. The facility, which opened in 1962, is in ‘High Priority Violation’ status for the Clean Air Act and has been in non-compliance for the past 12 consecutive quarters.
Citizens Against Pollution (CAP) is continuing its efforts to close the Brown County landfill in Georgetown. CAP has been fighting a proposed expansion that would have brought the edge of the landfill very close to a school and to homes. The group organized and pressured the OH EPA to deny the expansion. The agency did approve the expansion but scaled back the original proposal because of the issues raised by the residents. CHEJ is working with CAP and local organizers to develop a strategy to close the landfill.
Ohioans for Health, Environment & Justice (OHEJ) and other concerned citizens crashed a series of meetings held across the state this past summer by the Ohio Regulatory Reform Task Force. The purpose of the meetings was to solicit a deregulation wish-list from business and industry leaders. OHEJ felt that the Task Force also needed to hear from the public about the merits of deregulation. Although the Task Force refused to include the testimony offered by OHEJ and other groups and individuals, those who testified felt empowered by taking steps to have their voices added to a public dialogue that could pose potential harm to the public. When Task Force leaders were confronted about the people’s voices being excluded from the final document, they implied that the hearings were intended to find ways to improve corporate profitability, not to protect public health.
A protest on April 26th Tuesday at the Ohio State University (OSU) drew a crowd of opponents to high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” under current regulatory frameworks.
A collaboration of more than 50 grassroots and conservation groups, NO FRACK OHIO, called for a moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing until further safeguards are put in place to protect human health and the environment. The NO FRACK OHIO collaboration also opposes pending legislation — HB133 (Adams) and SB108 (Jordan) — in the General Assembly that would open all public lands to oil and gas drilling, including state parks, nature preserves and university grounds.
No Fracking Ohio Campaign Strategy meeting was held March 19, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. 43 leaders from across the state came together to begin to define a plan to keep horizontal drilling out of state parks and communities. It was an exciting day with real concrete steps defined and leaders agreeing to take
responsibility for some of the work. Stay tuned.
After nearly two years of fighting to reduce air emissions from the Lanxess Corp. plastics plant in Addyston, Ohio Citizen Action and local neighbors questioned the timing of the U.S. EPA’s announcement in June charging Lanxess with violating the Clean Air Act. The plant was cited for excessive air emissions of the carcinogen 1,3-butadiene, failure to comply with standards to prevent pipe leaks, and four other violations. The group remains concerned about the air emissions from the plant and EPA’s apparent cozy relationship with Lanxess. A health study released earlier this year by the state reported that the cancer rate in this village of 1,000 is 76 percent higher than expected.
Communities United for Action (CUFA) organized an environmental justice bus tour of Cincinnati’s “Toxic Donut,” with support from CHEJ and the Ohio Conference NAACP, for delegates attending the 99th A
nnual NAACP Convention held in Cincinnati in July. CUFA leaders narrated the tour that included a PowerPoint presentation. Over fifty delegates, many from the Ohio delegation of the NAACP, joined the tour and finished with much excitement and a stronger sense of urgency to address environmental justice (EJ) concerns. CHEJ and the Ohio Conference NAACP partnership also provided an environmental justice public policy briefing for delegates as part of the convention events. The delegates learned about the environmental justice forums held last year throughout the state, a meeting with state legislators, and the need for an EJ Bill in Ohio. One state legislator has sent an EJ report generated through the community forums to the Legislative Service Commission and if no glaring legal concerns arise, an EJ Bill will be introduced.
An emerging network of Ohio groups put together a petition asking the Ohio EPA to deny a permit modification sought by First Energy to add more mercury to Lake Erie at its Lake Shore facility in Cleveland. Currently, the concentration of the plant’s mercury discharge into the lake averages 2.9 parts per trillion (ppt), higher than the 1.3 ppt average required in its existing permit. First Energy wants the Ohio EPA to approve a variance that would eliminate any limit on their mercury discharge into Lake Erie. According to local organizers, the neighborhood surrounding the plant is in serious jeopardy; residents within a 3-mile radius of the plant are above the 90th percentile nationwide in terms of risk for cancer, neurological hazards, and respiratory hazards. Activists have requested additional time to get more public input regarding the impact on this environmental justice community.
Community members in Cleveland and Ohio Citizen Action are pressing Mittal Steel to reduce their dangerous emissions by investing in modern pollution prevention technology, which another Ohio steel plant has already installed. Mittal has been covering up its pollution, according to a new report released by Ohio Citizen Action. The report claims Mittal has not been measuring pollution from its blast furnaces — the primary sources of its emissions that include coarse particles, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and VOCs. Instead, Mittal uses average “emissions factors” taken from other steel plants, all of which have better control equipment than Mittal’s.
Community Justice League (CJL) and Organize Ohio want to stop the demolition of Roosevelt High School in Dayton because of possible contamination spreading to the neighboring homes. CHEJ was asked to provide organizing support. CJL and Organize Ohio petitioned the federal, regional and OH EPA to stop the demolition arguing that because the community is African-American and low-income, the demolition group had not done its due diligence of informing the residents about possible dangers. Among the contaminants of concern are asbestos, chloroform, trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. CJL has requested a delay in demolition until adequate safety procedures can be put in place to protect the residents.
Citizens AGHAST in Geneva Township are working to get citizens to vote no on a ballot initiative that would allow Waste Management to expand its landfill. The ballot initiative calls for re-zoning 229 acres that will give Waste Management more than 400 acres to expand its landfill. The new property line will be as close as 16 feet from residential homes. CHEJ is providing organizing support to the group.
A landfill expansion in Georgetown will come within 1,600 feet of both an elementary and a high school, endangering the health of students who attend these schools. Local residents have formed Citizens Against Pollution with a local physician leading the organizing efforts to stop the expansion. CHEJ has been asked to help strengthen the local group’s organizing efforts. So far, letters and petitions have been sent to the Ohio EPA, and the group is now focusing its attention on the Governor and state legislative leaders.
Girard United Against Ruinous Dumps (GUARD) has successfully stopped plans to build a construction and demolition landfill in the heart of their town. The landfill would be located about a quarter mile from a housing development and just 190 feet from the Mahoning River. Twice city officials have sent the application back to Youngstown-based Total Waste Logistics seeking answers to numerous questions. GUARD has been in touch with leaders from other C&D landfills in the state including a site in Warren where a $3 million Superfund cleanup began last April. GUARD and other groups are supporting proposed new state rules that would limit what could be dumped in these landfills and how close they could be built from streams and wetlands (100 ft) and homes, drinking water wells, parks, state forests, natural areas, and historic landmarks (500 ft).
Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA) and Ohio Citizen Action are celebrating a big victory – Eramet announced a $150 million upgrade to its equipment, which will clean up the air and keep the facility competitive, preserving jobs in a very uncertain time. The two groups have been pushing Eramet, a French owned company, for over two years to reduce emissions at its manganese refinery in Marietta. Community members have attended many meetings, displayed yard signs, marched in a parade, carried out research, provided odor or pollution reports and written letters. NCA plans to monitor Eramet’s progress to make sure the new equipment is installed. They also hope to leverage their success to encourage other local industries to address the area’s many pollution concerns.
In Marietta, Neighbors for Clean Air and Ohio Citizen Action recently released a report on Eramet Marietta, a metal refining plant in southeast Ohio. The report, which is based on their own investigations as well as information from the EPA and Eramet, states that manganese and chromium products from the plant’s operation were found in every sampling location tested. Locals are now having blood tests done to determine manganese exposure. Though research is somewhat lacking, manganese exposure is linked to brain damage in children and a Parkinson’s-like disease in adults. Eramet claims the groups’ report is flawed and contains false accusations.
Members of the Northwest Neighborhood Alliance (NNA) are organizing to stop a proposed 6 million chicken egg farm from locating in York Township. The group is facing an uphill battle according to state regulators who say that nothing the group can do will stop the proposal. “If the farm meets all the regulations and requirements for permitting, the director doesn’t have a choice – he has to approve it. He would be sued if he didn’t.” The laws were set up this way by the legislature and only they can change them.” Although local officials are frustrated that they have no say in this matter, NNA refuses to accept defeat and is pushing on in opposition to the egg farm.