More than 70 people from communities throughout Portage County attended a public forum Saturday at the on the topic of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," hosted by the Kent Environmental Council.
Moderated by Robert Heath, an ecosystem ecologist and retired director of the Water Resources Research Institute at , “What the Frack?” included a panel of four scientists and environmental activists who took questions from the audience after presenting information on the fracking process.
Fracking is a drilling method used to obtain natural gas trapped in underground shale. A drilling fluid composed of water and sand, with some chemical additives, is injected at high pressure into the rock to break it and release the natural gas.
"The goal is to get the discussion going," said Jeff Ingram, a KEC member. "Let’s see what’s going on under the ground, especially with something as important as drinking water."
The panelists were: Dan Lincoln, a meteorologist from the Northeast Ohio Gas Accountability Project; Gwen Fischer, from Concerned Citizens for Safer Drilling; Jeffrey Dick, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Youngstown State University; and Dave Simons, a full-time environmentalist and co-chair of the Ohio Sierra Club’s fracking committee.
Lincoln said he became involved in raising public awareness about fracking after seeing Gasland, a documentary depicting adverse effects on health and the environment from fracking.
The first horizontal hydraulic fracturing test well drilled into Utica Shale in Portage County is under review by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The well, drilled by Chesapeake Energy Corp., is in Suffield Township south of Kent.
Camille Fauser of Kent said she went to the forum Saturday night to learn about potential environmental and health effects of fracking.
"It’s a concern of mine. I don’t think enough research has been done about the overall effects, especially on water, and quite frankly I don’t trust the (energy) industry to give the absolute facts," Fauser said.