Woman cited in fracking protest

ATHENS – A woman was cited for trespassing Thursday after she chained herself to a gate to block the operations at a fracking waste transfer station in Athens County.

The station and injection well are operated by K&H Partners LLC of Parkersburg and is located near Athens on U.S. 50.

Crissa Cummings, 42, of Millfield in Athens County said she decided to chain herself to the gate for fear the waste will contaminate the ground, air and water and force people from their homes and farms.

Cummings said she was raised on a farm in New Marshfield in Athens County.

“I’m scared I’m going to be forced away from my family,” said Cummings, a member of Appalachia Resist, a group dedicated against the station and related operations.

Fracking is the process where water and other chemicals are forced deep under ground to cause cracks, fracturing, allowing the natural gas to be released. Chemicals and materials used include water, sand, salt, citric acid, benzene or lead, according to the website, WhatIsFracking.

Operations at the site were disrupted Thursday while she was barricaded at the gate. She was unchained by the sheriff’s office, which cited her for trespassing.

Jeff Harper, a spokesman for K&H Partners, didn’t immediately return a phone call for comment.

Cummings said she was chained to the gate for several hours before she was cut loose. She was cited with fourth-degree criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor, and appeared Friday morning in Athens Municipal Court where she pleaded not guilty.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 19. Facing 30 days in jail, Cummings said she will get an attorney.

An incident in January at the site, only learned of recently, prompted her to chain herself to the gate, Cummings said.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, more than 12 tons of contaminated soil and water have been removed from the site since January, she said. Cement casing has been lost down the injection well shaft, which Appalachia Resist claims is a potentially dangerous situation.

“In light of the recent studies that have linked fracking chemicals to birth defects, I feel sick when I think about all the babies and the pregnant friends that were protesting at this site in February, a couple of weeks after the brine spill,” Cummings said.

Peggy Gish, 71, who was an organic farmer in Athens County for more than 30 years, sat with Cummings in front of the gate.

“I do this because I care about the health and safety of the people living in this region and for future generations who also want clean water, air, and land,” Gish said. “Energy companies should not be allowed to make huge profits at the expense of the health and safety of the local people.”

Earlier this year, eight people were cited after a protest at the site.

Madeline Ffitch, a spokeswoman for Appalachia Resist, said the group will continue, citing the impact drilling and fracking have in Ohio and West Virginia.

“We’re not going to stop until they do,” she said.