Monday, June 30, 2014

Ohio environmentalists waiting to see if a Monroe County wild fire set in motion a huge fish kill

With the debate regarding hydraulic fracturing (Fracking) far from over in Ohio, opponents of the practice may have been handed a pretty big “I told you so.”

Or maybe not, as state wildlife officials join with their environmental brethren continue to collect evidence and other information related to the fire/fish and wildlife kill that happened over the last weekend in June.
What is known is that in the aftermath of a Monroe County wildfire that encapsulated a well pad where fracking occurs, an enormous fish and wildlife kill was found in nearby Opossum Creek.

It is believed – at least by some environmentalists anyway – that the kill is directly related to the fracking employed at the site, says Nathan Johnson, the Ohio Environmental Council’s staff attorney.
Johnson says as well that the incident stretches for about two miles along Opossum Creek.

“This may be unprecedented; perhaps even being the biggest Ohio fish kill related to the oil and gas industry,” Johnson said.

Yet Johnson does say that drawing a line from Point A (the wildfire) to Point B (the fish kill) and then to Point C (a well hole employing fracking fluid) is a bit “speculative.”

Thus the Council is still awaiting word from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources “as to the particulars” of the accident.

Even so, says Johnson who calls this incident an “environmental crisis,” the Ohio EPA” has classified this waterway as one of the cleanest and healthiest streams in the state.”

Johnson does say that a well-related problem threatening a nearby stream is not without precedence, too. In May a Morgan County well blow-out threatened a nearby stream.

And for this reason alone the Ohio legislature needs to become more and better engaged in modifying the state’s laws regarding drilling to make them more ecologically friendly and also help prevent any accidental or deliberate fracking discharges into any waterway, Johnson says.

“Extending the legal stream buffer is an urgent no-brainer for Ohio’s environment,” Johnson says.

This story will be updated as further information becomes available. That update could include the numbers dead fish and wildlife found, the exact nature of the relationship (if any) between the fire and the fish kill.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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