I recently spoke to Harry Boyd, a landowner in Monroe County, Ohio. Harry is a mineral owner and, as he says, “not a green tree hugger.” He is not opposed to oil and gas extraction, but he is opposed to irresponsible oil and gas extraction. When Harry bought his land, he planned an organic farm and a hunting retreat. To help establish his dreams, and not knowing about the environmental risks, he leased mineral rights to a company that wanted to hydraulically fracture existing wells on the land. In 2007, the fracturing began. The story Harry Boyd shared with me is not pretty; here it is as he related it to me:
As the first well was being fractured, Harry came upon the company blowing all of the used fracturing fluid, also known as flowback, out into the air and the woods on his land. As the second well was being fractured, the company still blew all the used frack fluid into the environment. State inspectors came to the site and told the company not to do it again, but the company followed this same practice for frack jobs #3 and #4. Mr. Boyd reports that the blown out frack fluid flowed down both sides of a hill into three streams on the Boyd property, eventually running into Duck Creek, which runs into the Ohio River and then the Mississippi River. Based on the number of tanks used in these frack jobs, Mr. Boyd estimates that 350,000-500,000 gallons of flowback were spewed into the environment.
After a long wait, Harry finally received Material Safety Data Sheets he had requested from the fracturing company. According to these documents, the fluids that were blown out onto his land and that flowed into Duck Creek consist of many dangerous chemicals that are known to cause serious illness, including: naphthalene, petroleum distillates, kerosene, diethylbenzene, xylene, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, and hydrochloric acid.
Harry no longer has any plans to use this land for farming or to rent out the hunting cabin; the loss in his property value is considerable. To date, he reports that the State of Ohio has not taken any action against the company that committed this environmental damage. Mr. Boyd has shared many photos with me that detail neon green and orange fluids dumped on his land, as well as leaking tanks and extensive soil damage. I've posted one appalling photo below; more are available on his website.
Photo credit: Harry Boyd, used with permission