Letter to the Editor from Kat VanHammen, Delton
Regarding the front page article in the Hastings Banner on November 27th entitled, “Permit renews call for county fracking opposition,” I would like to make a few clarifications. First, I was misquoted as saying that the new injection well was being filled with frack waste from out of state. I said that it could be the case but we have not verified it yet. Instead I was quoted as saying that we have not verified exact location of the well. I actually had visited the site the day before and knew exactly where it is. It is sited in Johnston in a residential area with homes nearby. Although I had called the DEQ for info, I was unable to obtain too many details as to exactly what waste was going into the sight and was still working on it. The next speaker, Ms. Skedgell, was able to obtain more info from the DEQ and found that the waste was from oil and gas wells in Barry Co. being drilled by a company from Traverse City.
Semantics play an important role in this issue and many of the terms used are misleading and unclear. For instance, the word “brine” is often used. Brine makes one think of its common usage as salt water. In the oil and gas industry, however, the term brine can refer to anything from salt water to water that comes up from a fracked well that is laden with chemical additives (some known carcinogens) and radioactive materials from the earth. There is also confusion around the word “frack”. The DEQ and the state say that we have been fracking safely for 60 years but the new deep well horizontal methods have only been used in the last several years in MI and have much bigger and more dangerous impacts on a community. Many citizens in our county, even those who have signed leases for their mineral rights, may not yet understand the huge impacts of the industry as it is now.
As for Mr. Stolsonburg’s comments that we cannot do much about the situation before us. There are actually many things we can do on a county level to help keep our community safe and beautiful and maintain the economic opportunities based on tourism, recreation and agriculture that we provide in SW Michigan. A group of local citizens has been researching the issue of how to do this and will be presenting some options to the board of Commissioners soon.
Finally, as to the complaint that the citizen’s comments took too much time, I would ask the Commissioners to find some middle ground. I am very grateful for all those that serve as leaders (Commissioners etc.) and want to respect their time. However, in a time when people are not feeling heard in their government, it is important that folks be allowed to speak up. I had no idea that so many others would be attending that meeting for the same purpose so it would have been impossible to organize one spokesperson. So many people speaking (it was 7 or 8 at most) show that there is deep concern coming from many different parts of the community. I believe that we can all work together to keep Barry County a wonderful and beautiful and clean place to live.