Ohio’s Earthquake: Top 10 New Ways to Use Toxic Gas-Drilling Waste

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A 4.0 “holiday earthquake” near Youngstown, Ohio–the 11th in a year–was traced to a deep well for disposal of salty, chemical-laced water left over from natural gas drilling, so state officials have shut down the well. It’s the obviously right move after scientists figured out that the millions of gallons of waste, injected deep into bedrock, made natural faults in the rock slick and allowed them to move. So where to put millions of gallons of toxic waste?

Between the quakes, serious drinking water pollution and permanent damage to land around “fracking” wells (so named because they fracture deep rock to release natural gas), even Exxon can’t argue that this sort of natural gas is perfectly safe and clean. Injecting it into bedrock rock faults is out, killing wildlife brings bad PR and pouring it into our drinking water is increasingly frowned on.

I’m no geologist, but making a mess should have consequences for the people who made it. So here’s my top 10 list:

Proper Use of Fracking Wastewater

10. Spray it on the lawns of the oil and drilling executives who commit fracking

9. Fill the swimming pools of state elected officials (for instance Pennsylvania and Wyoming) who let oil companies frack  for years without even disclosing the chemicals they used.

8. Make interestingly colored ice cubes for the refreshment tables at oil company corporate retreats and shareholder meetings.

7. Fill thousands of tanker trucks and park them at the corporate headquarters, vacation properties, investment properties and home driveways of all of the above executives and state and federal politicians.

6. Water the playing fields of NFL and college teams that indirectly made millions from Exxon TV ads about clean, safe and cheap natural gas from fracking.

5. Fill the water coolers of members of Congress who are laboring to eradicate the Environmental Protection Agency and its “job-killing” air and water safety regulation.

4. Hack the Netflix accounts of the same members of Congress so the only offering is the movie “Idiocracy.” Send refreshing “Frack Snack” bottles with the movie. (Spoiler alert: It no longer seems farfetched that corporate political influence would lead to watering farms fields with taxpayer-financed Gatorade-ish sports drinks.)

3.  Top up the debate podium water glasses of presidential candidates who see “drill, baby, drill” as the best energy solution.

2. Turn drilling-site wastewater holding ponds into docks for the sailboats and pleasure yachts of the political and corporate fans of fracking.

1. Make Jell-O salad for every oil and drilling company headquarters cafeteria.

Maybe it’s just a drop in the disposal bucket, but at least the toxic water would be going to the proper places.


Judy Dugan concentrates as an advocate on health care reforms, oil industry issues and telecommunications. She also writes and edits foundation publications and conducts media outreach.

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