(Andy Ilmberger/Adobe Stock)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Troubling information has been uncovered about the use of so-called classified chemicals in fracking operations in Ohio. Using mapping and data analysis by FracTracker Alliance, new research from the Partnership for Policy Integrity shows the oil and gas industry injected potentially toxic chemicals more than 11,000 times into roughly 1,400 fracking wells between 2013 and 2018.
Report author Dusty Horwitt, senior council at the Partnership, said there's cause for concern.
"EPA regulators have found that many secret chemicals have health risks," Horwitt said. "And there are multiple potential pathways of exposure, including leaks and spills, underground migration, also road-spreading of these chemicals. "
Ohio law allows well owners to conceal chemical formulas as trade secrets, which Silverio Caggiano, battalion chief at the Youngstown Fire Department, said ties the hands of first responders who need to act fast in a spill or explosion.
"We depend upon being able to quantify and qualify the product that we're dealing with so we know how to mitigate it," Caggiano said. "If I don't know what it is, I can't identify its physical properties and how I'm going to take care of it, or how to protect people."
Under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, first responders can request trade secret chemical identities in emergencies in a written statement. But Caggiano argued by the time such a request is answered and approved, it's typically too late.
The industry has claimed trade-secret provisions prevent competitors from stealing their formulas. Horwitt countered there is a way for companies to protect their chemical information without keeping the public in the dark.
"Drilling companies can make their chemical identities available to the public in a random list, so that their competitors would not be able to reverse-engineer that list of chemicals into the products that they're putting into their wells," Horwitt said.
Caggiano said he isn't opposed to fracking, but feels the industry is being given a free pass.
"Long after these companies have grabbed their money and went back to wherever they came from, the body count is going to start. Farmer Jim is going to have problems; he's going to have leukemia, his wife's going to have breast cancer, their daughter is going to give birth to a kid that may have birth defects," Caggiano said. "And these companies are going to be long gone, and we're going to be stuck with the problems."
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, chemicals used in fracking can cause irritation to skin and lungs, and can be toxic to nerves, organs and human development.