Activists Want Columbus to Have Environmental ‘Bill of Rights’

by Laura Arenschield

No one is fracking in Columbus, and no one is injecting fracking wastewater into the ground here.

But some grass-roots environmental activists are taking no chances.

A group is collecting signatures to get a Community Bill of Rights on the Columbus ballot in May.

If it passes, the bill would change Columbus’ city charter to block activities that could pollute drinking water and air. It’s a legal tactic that some communities across the nation have used to block fracking and other work that affects the environment.

In Ohio, similar bills have passed in Broadview Heights and Oberlin and failed three times in Youngstown.

Kent voters will decide the fate of one in November, and Athens activists are trying to get one on the ballot in May.

Carolyn Harding, the organizer behind the Columbus Bill of Rights, said she’s primarily concerned about injection wells.

To pull oil and natural gas from shale, companies drill vertically and then turn sideways into the rock. Then they blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the shafts to free trapped oil and gas in the process called fracking. During the process, fluids bubble back up to the surface with the gas.

Fracking chemicals include ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, considered a possible carcinogen. The waste that bubbles up also includes radioactive material.

According to the government, at least 2 billion gallons of wastewater are injected every day into wells throughout the country.

About 200 injection wells operate in Ohio, including one in Delaware County, seven in Pickaway County and more than a dozen across Morrow County. The area is part of the Big Walnut watershed, which feeds Hoover Reservoir. More than half of Columbus gets its drinking water from the reservoir.

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