Chemicals used should be made available to the public

Concern about the chemicals found in the mix of water, sand and chemicals used in the fracking process flared anew recently when a fire at a Monroe County well pad resulted in chemicals washing off into a nearby creek and then the Ohio River.

As many as 70,000 fish were killed, yet state officials have said no contaminants were detected in the Ohio River, which some communities downstream use for drinking water. At issue is Ohio law that does not force the fracking company from revealing the chemicals used in its process to the public. The law does require the company to release a full list of chemicals to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources because that is the agency that regulates drilling in Ohio. But even then, in this case at least, the full list of chemicals wasn’t released until days after the incident, and days after any harmful runoff would have already headed to the Ohio River and down stream.

It’s also come to light the list of chemicals wasn’t shared with the Ohio EPA or an outside agency hired to test the water for contaminants after the fire occurred, according to published reports. Officials with these agencies now admit internal communications must be improved, and while we would agree, we think it’s also important full information be available to the public as well.

Fracking companies want to withhold some chemicals they say fall under proprietary information. But other states, such as Oklahoma, require a full list of fracking chemicals be revealed prior to any drilling at all. That seems to be the best way to guarantee public safety, we think.

At the very least, when an incident occurs, the list of chemicals should be released to state and federal regulators, as well as first responders. That’s the only way potential contamination of some public drinking water supplies can be headed off. Locally, Marietta doesn’t draw it’s drinking water from the Ohio River, but other area communities do, and anytime 70,000 fish die, we should take notice. Legislators and environmentalists alike say its clear the law that determines what information must be released and to whom needs another look. We couldn’t agree more.