In my backyard

By |  January 20, 2012

On paper and on ExxonMobil television commercials, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a safe process for extracting oil and natural gas from deep below the surface of the earth. In practice, the safety of the process is yet to be determined. Proponents cite the great economic potential for the United States in terms of job creation and domestic development of an abundant energy source. Opponents point to the potential for groundwater contamination, among other concerns.

The debate has implications for the aggregates industry, because a certain specification of sand high in silica content (frac sand) is used in the fracking process.

The issue concerns me, because fracking is coming to my state of Ohio, and in a big way. Marcellus and Utica Shale deposits reach west from Pennsylvania into the eastern half of Ohio. The promise of much-needed jobs for our economically depressed state has many seeing green.

I listened to Ohio Gov. John Kasich speak at a meeting of the Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association last November. Kasich says the state is mobilizing quickly to take advantage of the natural gas boom. It’s good to know that demand for this resource can greatly help the economy of my state, as well as some of the nation’s aggregate producers. However, I’m also very concerned about another important resource – the water supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says groundwater in Wyoming was most likely contaminated by fracking. The EPA is examining hydraulic fracturing in depth, and an initial report of the results is expected by the end of this year. A final report will be released in 2014.

On New Year’s Eve, a 4.3 magnitude earthquake centered only miles from my community rocked our house. The brief, shallow quake sounded like an explosion, and caused some damage in the area, including a long crack across my nephew’s basement wall. In Northeast Ohio, we get maybe one noticeable earthquake a decade. But this was one of 11 quakes in 2011 epicentered near an injection well where waste water from the fracking process is pumped, and it has been confirmed that the well is the cause of the quakes.

For me, the good and the bad of the fracking process is hitting close to home.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Editors' Blog

About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at

Comments are closed