COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State data shows the amount of hydraulic fracturing wastewater pumped underground in Ohio increased by more than 15 percent last year.
The increase comes as drilling for shale in the process known as fracking has slowed nationwide.
Fracking is when a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped at high pressure into wells to fracture shale formations and free oil and natural gas underground.
The water can be recycled and reused, but it eventually must be disposed of. Ohio is best suited to take wastewater from other states because of its more than 200 injection wells.
A Columbus Dispatch analysis of Ohio Department of Natural Resources numbers shows Ohio took in nearly 29 million barrels of fracking wastewater in 2015.
That figure is about 4 million more barrels than in 2014.
Injection wells pump wastewater from oil and gas drilling deep inside the earth. Some such wells in Ohio have been linked to earthquakes.
Ohio typically takes more fracking wastewater from outside Ohio than within, but the latest figures show about 55 percent of the wastewater ending up in state injection wells came from Ohio.
Wastewater is generally hauled in tanker trucks and deposited at sites primarily in eastern and southeastern Ohio.
Residents in those areas frequently express concern regarding possible contamination of drinking water and earthquakes, but have unsuccessfully fought to keep wastewater out of their communities.
“Something’s got to give,” said Teresa Mills, program director for the Buckeye Forest Council, an environmental-advocacy group. “Athens County, Coshocton, Guernsey (counties) — these are environmental-justice communities, and we have to stop burdening them.”
Exact figures regarding last year’s drilling patterns and oil and gas production in Ohio are not yet available. Companies were required to report that information to the Department of Natural Resources by Feb. 14, agency spokesman Matt Eiselstein said.