By Ed Runyan
About 100 people attended Frackfree Mahoning Valley’s town-hall meeting Friday night to watch three videos related to hydraulic fracturing and hear a presentation by Ray Beiersdorfer, a Youngstown State University a geology professor.
The videos, shown at First Unitarian Universalist Church on Elm Street, included one by The Weather Channel, Inside Climate News and The Center For Public Integrity that told the stories of some of the people living in the huge Eagle Ford Shale play in Texas.
Residents talked about the medical issues they have experienced and the concerns they have for their health since hydraulically fractured wells were drilled there starting several years ago.
Another video presented opinions on why industry and regulatory officials have repeatedly claimed that hydraulic fracturing has never been shown to cause groundwater contamination.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a method of breaking natural-gas deposits loose deep underground so they can be mined.
Beiersdorfer endorsed the opinions expressed in the video that the danger isn’t so much the fracking, which occurs deep underground, but the well casings and cementing closer to the ground, which can leak.
He said today’s version of fracking has existed only for about 10 years, so the repeated claims that fracking has been used for 60 years without problems is misleading.
One report mentions six Ohio frack wells that have caused groundwater contamination, he said.
One of the biggest threats close to home in the Youngstown area is an instance in West Virginia in which groundwater contamination occurred because contamination migrated up from a deep well into an older style well nearby, Beiersdorfer said.
That has implications for the Meander Reservoir because there are about 100 of the older-style shallow wells nearby and a Consol Energy deep well in Jackson Township, within three miles of the reservoir.
With the age of the older wells, half of them could be “conduits for groundwater contamination,” Beiersdorfer said.
His wife, activist and failed Youngstown City Council president candidate Susie Beiersdorfer, announced that activists have secured enough signatures to get the Community Bill of Rights on the ballot again as a Youngstown charter amendment in the May 6 primary. Voters rejected the measure twice last year.