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July 25th, 2014

The Floating Catastrophe

By Sydney Baldwin 

Our nation’s waterways are at risk to become the new highways for dangerous fracking waste. The U.S. Coast Guard has proposed the opening of the Ohio River, and other major waterways, as a route for shale gas extraction wastewater. If approved, the fracking waste barges pose a hazard to all those who drink and live near these waterways.

GreenHunter Resources, Inc. is seeking permission to build a barge dock that could accommodate roughly 105,000,000 gallons of fracking waste at once. A facility of this size could endanger contiguous ecosystems and communities. Almost 686 million gallons of fracking wastewater was dumped in Ohio last year alone, in which half came from out of state sites. If approved, the new proposals could eventually transform Ohio into a fracking wasteland. 

Proponents argue that barging the waste is a safer alternative to transporting it by truck or railway. However, the quantity of chemical waste could wreak havoc on communities nearby and downstream for months, even years, if there were a mishap.

Due to recent gas-related accidents, residents and local water officials resent the proposal. Earlier this year, President Obama and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after harmful chemicals poured into the Elk River. The warning came too late for many West Virginia residents, as hundreds of people who drank or used the water reported symptoms such as vomiting, rashes and dizziness.

Millions of people could face serious health problems if an accident of this magnitude occurred on the Ohio River. The river and its watershed stretch 981 miles and it flows through six states, coming into contact with many fragile ecosystems. The river is the source of drinking water for over three million people, and 10 percent of the U.S. population lives in the Ohio River Basin. 

As seen with other massive chemical spills, they are hard to contain, and even harder to clean up in many cases. Enacted by Vice President Dick Cheney in 2005, the Halliburton Loophole allows oil companies to keep secret the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing process. Each company’s chemical cocktail differs, leaving workers flying blind when clearing up spills and assessing damage.

The risk of contaminating such a large water source is incredibly irresponsible, as the slightest accident could be calamitous. Ultimately, the proposal is just another example of the grip oil and gas companies have on our government.

The time for action is now. Send public comments through July 28, 2014 to urge the Coast Guard to deny fracking wastewater transport on our nation’s greatest waterways.

Sydney Baldwin is the communications intern at Food & Water Watch.

26 Comments on The Floating Catastrophe

  1. Mark Ruedy says:

    This is a disaster waiting to happen. No to the barge and no to fracking.

  2. Kathryn Santana says:

    PLEASE don’t build this dangerous dock. Keep our waterways clean. Thank you.

  3. Rickey Westbrooks says:


  4. Jose de Arteaga says:

    Don’t frack waste the Ohio River

  5. Martha says:

    Please do NOT allow fracking wastewater transport on the Ohio River and other major waterways. It is too dangerous to both people and marine ecosystems.

    Cleanup of spills is almost impossible due to Dick Cheney’s Haliburton Loophole, which allows oil companies to keep secret the chemicals they use in fracking. Each company’s chemical cocktail differs, leaving workers flying blind when clearing up spills and assessing damages.

  6. David Arshawsky says:

    Fracking is not acceptable. It is toxic to water and hazardous without reason or value. We will not stand for it

  7. charles says:

    This is a REALLY bad idea. Waste should be treated on-site.

  8. Stephen Anderson says:

    The risk of contaminating such a large water source is incredibly irresponsible, as the slightest accident could be calamitous.

  9. Stephen French says:

    It is considerable concern to me that the US Coast Guard would seriously consider allowing such incredibly dangerous chemicals to be transported on the Ohio River. The potential for a catastrophic disaster is far too great to permit this and no such permission should be given. I implore those reviewing this request to deny the request and preserve the safety of millions of American cititzens.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  10. Marylyn Nolan says:

    No fracking waste in US waters.

  11. Jerre Miller says:

    What could possibly go wrong? This is a prescription for disaster. How could the Coast Guard drop their protection standards that far? I’m shocked. How in the world will they ever prevent even ONE disaster? Once it happens it’s too late. Now we have corporations influencing government agencies who have the task of protecting our waterways & the public to give in to something so blatantly dangerous? And, they know accidents happen. I’m shocked as well as disillusioned.

  12. Steve Yaffee says:

    Do not risk contamination of our nation’s rivers. My daughter and grandchildren live along the Ohio River, in Kentucky. We need a moratorium on all fracking activities in the USA unless the petrochemical companies reveal what they are introducing into our environment, until they can prove they employ absolutely safe business practices, and commit to 100% restitution & repair from any & all fracking associated human and environmental harm.

  13. Rich Roberts says:

    Do not let this happen. Do not risk our waterways. Deny fracking wastewater transport on our nation’s greatest waterways.

  14. Meredith Stout says:

    I am appalled by this latest proposal to transport fracking wastewater on our waterways. I urge you to not allow companies to use this method of shipping dangerous chemicals.

  15. mei lin yeoell says:

    What are you? Insane? On their payroll? Shirtsighted? Believe in fairies? This has to be among the most outrageous proposals by the energy industry, and there have been many! Get some morals and say NO. Repeat after me, N O!

  16. George Shaeffer says:

    I strongly urge the U.S. Coast Guard to deny ANY permits to transport ANY fracking waste through ANY waterway from which drinking water is drawn, but especially the Ohio River. One accident – just one – could prevent millions of people from ever having safe drinking water again. The are many other serious environmental concerns as well, but at a minimum we should be protecting people’s sources of potable water.

  17. Lori Rees says:

    Ridiculous! Quit using the earth as your garbage can for your filthy greed. It’s time to make people priority, not profits.

  18. Keith Loomis says:

    This is an idea whose time has pasted. Do not approve this project. Do not allow big fossil fuel corporations to spill there fracking waste in our waterways. . The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention and doctors across the nation have called for a moratorium on fracking pending further research into the effects of injecting hydrocarbons such as: petroleum distillates, naphthalene, formaldehyde, benzyl choride, volatile organic compounds and glycol ethers deep into the earth. Of the 353 chemicals presumed ingredients, 60% can harm the brain and nervous system, 40% are endocrine disrupters and 30% are both suspected carcinogens and developmental toxicants.

  19. Tamara McArthur-West says:


  20. Antoinette Crittenden says:

    Please do not allow this. Transporting Fracking waste on a river will not end well. The oil and gas industry have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to protect us from their pollution and their irresponsible practices.

  21. blanche wilcox says:

    i can’t believe i have to sign this!! what are you thinking????? poison and water? stop fracking and be done with killing us

  22. Rebecca Anne Bandy says:

    There seems to be no way to prevent catastrophic accidents from occurring that harm citizens and ecosystems. As a voter and resident near the potential effected areas, I oppose this plan.

  23. Kim Feil says:

    they wanna export lotsa methanol too…another way to keep fracking

  24. ewalek says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments on barging fracking waste on the Ohio River. Today is the final day to submit public comments and say NO to this dangerous proposal! For more information on submitting public comments, visit this page:

    Thanks for all that you do,
    Sydney Baldwin
    Food & Water Watch Communications Intern

  25. Richard Fuller says:

    Stop all fracking, frack waste accumulation, its transport, storage and disposal.

  26. Ruby says:

    I live in a small town in central Ohio and am already thinking after being sick for 6ths since coming here from PA, that the underground watershed is already contaminated from all the private farms fracking around us. I’ve had allergies, colds, flus, vomiting, diarrhea, and sores that don’t heal. It killing us I’am sure. I almost want go back to the air pollution of Philly, where I was hardly sick even in blizzards and rain! Don’t frack on any River. Heck! Don’t frack near people at all..

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