Fracking Issue Goes Beyond Landowners

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Landowners aren't the only ones concerned about the potential impact of horizontal fracturing.

Business owners in Uptown Athens and Ohio University students are protesting and writing letters to local government leaders.

Michelle Wasserman is the proud co-owner of Casa Nueva.

The restaurant is not only well-known for it Mexican-oriented cuisine, but also for its use of locally grown foods.

"Our food philosophy is that we like to get as much local, fresh, sustainable and organic as possible, as much of those types of foods as we can," says Wasserman.

But now, Wasserman is concerned about what could be a threat to her restaurant: hydraulic fracturing.

Wasserman believes fracking could be harmful to soil and groundwater.

She believes this could affect the availability of locally produced food, one of the foundations of Casa's food philosophy.

"The big obvious one for me is the contamination of groundwater and how that is going to affect our farmers and potentially our business. If the food that we get from farmers becomes contaminated we can't use it. At least I wouldn't support us using it here and I wouldn't wanna eat it. And then what does that leave us? There are several businesses that rely heavily on local food," says Wasserman. "Where does this leave us? We'd have to get food that's shipped from thousands of miles away and who knows if that food is even any good. I mean, food is our livelihood and we really depend on that in order to live. And as people, we depend on food to live. If we don't have good food or clean water, I mean, we die. It doesn't matter how much money we have."

Out of concerns about how fracking could affect both the community and her business, Wasserman has contacted local and national politicians asking for strict regulations of the practice.

Along with more than 230 people from Athens and surrounding counties, Wasserman signed on to a letter to county commissioners that addresses the issue.

In this letter, citizens call on commissioners to do everything in their power to protect local land, air and water from the impacts of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

For several of weeks, residents crowded the commissioners office to voice their point of view on the issue.

"The first time I heard about fracking was about four years ago at a conference where I had been asked to go and speak about coal issues that we were dealing with in our community and there were community members from Pennsylvania who were talking about their water being contaminated to the point that it would ignite and shoot flames…" says Community Activist Elisa Young. "And that was really concerning to me but, I didn't really dig any deeper because we had our own issues at the time."

When drilling companies introduced fracking in Ohio, Young started digging. But like many other citizens, she's had a hard time finding answers.

Young is especially concerned about the injection of wastewater into the ground, which is already occuring in Athens County, and the mysterious cocktail of chemicals that is used in the drilling process.

In the summer of 2011, the Ohio General Assembly approved House Bill 133, which opened up most lands owned by state entities, including universities, to fracking.

As a response to this, students from Ohio University launched a new organization that protests House Bill 133.

Besides her duties as an Resident Assistant and an anthropology student at Ohio University, Camille Scott is the president of OU Students Against Fracking.

"We have three different branches essentially of OUSAF. That is educational outreach, a ban on fracking on campus and then looking to make sure that the natural gas that we source from a power plant in the transition from coal to natural gas, that we are making in the next few years, making sure that that natural gas is sourced responsibly and not from gas that has been fracked," says Scott.

OUSAF is educating students about fracking, doing research and collecting a survey of opinions of the community members, faculty, staff and students as to where they stand on the issue of fracking.

Scott will then present the information to the university's Board of Trustees in the hope that this will sway the board's decisions about on-campus drilling.

Like Elisa Young, Scott is concerned that without required regulations, fracking could lead to water contamination.

Now that Ohio University is surveying its property for oil and gas drilling, Scott feels even stronger about the issue.

"I shouldn't have to be protecting myself from having contaminated groundwater. But it is an issue and because I feel so strongly about it. I will take up that fight," says Scott.