Belmont County Emergency Officials Seek Ingredients in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid

A policy group has partnered with emergency management agencies across 21 states, including Ohio, to petition the U.S. EPA to disclose the identities of chemicals used by oil and gas drilling companies in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Dusty Horwitt, spokesman for the Partnership for Policy Integrity, said Ohio and the federal government often prevent citizens, even first responders, from knowing what chemicals are used in drilling operations because they deem their extracting process as “confidential business information.” In a letter to EPA Director Scott Pruitt, the group, along with more than 100 first responders, health professionals and scientists from 21 states and the District of Columbia, requested the EPA disclose the identities of 41 chemicals that EPA regulators reviewed between 2003 and 2014, under a program created by the Toxic Substances Control Act to ensure that new chemicals are safe before they are used commercially.

Belmont County EMA Director Dave Ivan is concerned about the unknown aspects of hazardous materials that first responders may encounter at a well site. He said any fixed facility that uses chemicals must fill out a “Tier 2” chemical inventory report. He said many times the oil and gas industry uses outside groups that come in to do the initial fracking of the well and are only here for 30 to 60 days, and are not subject to the same regulations as the fixed facility.

“That is our biggest problem. We know they are using what may be hazardous chemicals but are not required to report it because they are only here for a short amount of time,” Ivan said. “We have talked to them in the past about getting the information before they use the chemicals so we can be prepared,” he said.

“We never know what people are hauling over our roads, we just try to do our best with the information we have.”

Horwitt says he finds it “unsettling” that the EPA has identified health concerns for chemicals involved in the hydraulic fracturing process and still allows them to be used with no way for the public to find them.

“By disclosing the chemicals’ identities, EPA will help fulfill its obligation to protect public health,” Horwitt stated.