The Washington County commissioners say they hope to form a committee of county officials and community members who would study potential safety issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing and distribute information related to the activity.
It's an idea that's already come to fruition in some Ohio counties, including Licking and Athens, they said.
Washington County Commissioner Cora Marshall presented the idea to commissioners Steve Weber and Tim Irvine after learning about the committee established by the Licking County Commissioners.
Marshall said she believes the commissioners should be more active in coordinating and disseminating information related to hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process also known as "fracking" that involves shattering rock thousands of feet underground with a combination of water, sand and chemicals.
"The commissioners have not taken any action on forming a committee. We're just still in the discussion stage of doing that," Marshall said. "Our main purpose in forming an advisory committee is to keep the commissioners informed of different activities going on in the county and have some useful information for our citizens."
Marshall said if a citizen needs baseline water testing done, for example, the committee would provide information on how that can be obtained.
How to get involved
Contact the Washington County commissioners at 373-6623.
Weber said he likes the idea of establishing such a committee.
"I could see a group of six, eight, ten people (getting together) to look at this stuff," he said, noting that perhaps representatives from the oil and gas industry, the Southeast Ohio Fracking Interest Group, the county engineer's office and the county health department could be involved.
Southeast Ohio Fracking Interest Group member Betsy Cook, of Lowell, said she would definitely be interested in being involved with the committee.
"We want things to be done safely and responsibly," she said. "We have to live here and these people coming in (from the oil and gas industry) won't be staying."
Cook added she is concerned about how the air, water and bridges are being impacted by activities related to hydraulic fracturing.
Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb said the committee there consists of him, the county engineer, county planning director, a representative from the county health department and the county sheriff.
"We're currently recruiting some citizens and then we'll ask our advisory committee to start meeting," Bubb said. "As county commissioners none of us claim to be experts in this and we're all learning about this as we go. So we thought by putting together an advisory committee of interested citizens and public officials we can meet and discuss and research these issues."
Bubb noted that the committee will, for example, look at how well the county's Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) is being implemented. The agreement is designed to help protect county and township roadways that are likely to suffer damage as companies begin moving heavy drilling equipment into the county.