Test Waters Before Fracking Athens Resident Says

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Tuesday marked an opportunity for Athenians to make county commissioners aware of potential health hazards that could result from hydraulic fracturing.

Sonia Marcus, a longtime Athens resident and former Ohio University Director for Sustainability, believes that knowing the risks of fracking and discovering them before the process begins could save lives.

“Before drilling even begins, it’s important for there to be an EPA-certified collection and analysis of water on [one’s] property, so that if any possible issue arises with contamination, they have the data that they need to be able to say ‘My water wasn’t like this before,’” Marcus said.

Lenny Eliason, a Democrat who has served as an Athens County Commissioner since 1998, believes Marcus’s ideas could be put into action.

“What’s she’s trying to achieve is get a centered focus on water testing; there’s a number of agencies out there that can do that, it’s a matter of finding the funds to do it,” Eliason said.

Eliason also says there is a question of whether the process should be done through the water district or the health department, and although commissioners can make recommendations, residents are on their own for finding funds.

Marcus says it may be inevitable that fracking will begin sometime, but having a chance to test the land before the process starts may make a major difference.

“It’s a different kind of testing than what you would do for your well, for example, to make sure your septic system isn’t leaking, so we have to be very specific about the guidance we’re giving people,” Marcus said.

Her main message is about wanting the community to act as a whole.

“It’s not about pro- or anti-fracking, it’s about taking common-sense steps to make sure that we’re in a position to defend ourselves if we think that contamination has occurred,” Marcus said.