Editor: 

Even though many people have embraced and have benefited from fracking in the area, that doesn’t mean they need to deny the serious risks our community now faces. There have been pipeline explosions, well fires and leaks that lead to almost a month of evacuation for some area residents. Compressor stations emit all kinds of pollutants and pose a serious risk to the health and safety of our community. It is apparent once again that the regulatory agencies are not doing their due diligence in monitoring and protecting the residents of Belmont county. Therefore, I am here to request that the village of Barnesville educate themselves and then take the appropriate actions to protect us from the potential risks, which includes paying for air monitoring for Volatile Organic Compounds. I have given you a proposal from the Environmental Health Project for such monitoring. Here as a recent local example of regulatory failure:

After my family and others in the community smelled strong hydrocarbon odors on Sept. 4th and again on the 7th, I called OEPA and talked to Trevor Irwin and he stated: "I contacted the Belmont County Emergency Management and they reached out to the companies in the area. He was told that there was an issue with a safety valve on a pipeline and it was leaking and that We were smelling methyl mercaptan. I asked if he was going to come down and do testing. Contact the local fire chief and he can do the testing. They use the same equipment as we do." He stated the public was not at risk and Methyl Mercaptan was not flammable

But in truth Methyl Mercaptan -- is a colorless flammable gas with unpleasant odor. It is easily ignited. Iit emits highly toxic fumes and flammable vapors. Methyl mercaptan is highly irritant when it contacts moist tissues such as the eyes, skin, and upper respiratory tract. It can also induce headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coma, and death. Area residents have complained to me of headaches and eye irritation on the 4th and the 7th when the fumes were present throughout Barnesville.

Link: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MHMI/mmg139.pdf

Monday September 9 Irwin at OEPA-said that he talked to local authorities and was told that that we were just smelling the sale barn and no testing had been done. When I reminded him that he told me there was a pipeline leak he avoided the question

I called Dave Ivan- Belmont County EMA director He told me that OEPA had specialized equipment and that local authorities do not have the same equipment as the OEPA. Irwin had given me misinformation about this. He also said that the OEPA relied on the local EMS to investigate issues in the area, even though they don’t have the specialized equipment. When I asked him about the safety valve malfunction and pipeline leak, he basically said that he hears lots of things from lots of people and that they hadn’t determined yet what the problem was for sure, that they had Columbia gas investigating.

I was shocked by the inaction of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. I couldn’t believe they were not going to do their own investigation, monitoring or testing. Why are they requesting that local authorities take over their responsibility of monitoring/testing when they don’t have the appropriate and specialized monitoring equipment?

We have to protect ourselves from this industry and we have to do air monitoring. And on behalf of many residents, I am requesting that the village pay for the Environmental Health Project to do the testing for us.

Jill Hunkler

Barnesville