Updated Thu, Jun 5, 2014 6:15 pm
A Millfield woman was arrested and charged with criminal trespass Thursday afternoon after she chained herself to the entrance of an Athens County injection well.
Crissa Cummings, 43, a member of local anti-fracking group Appalachia Resist, chained herself to the entrance of the K&H injection well in Torch around noon on Thursday. Less than two hours later, she was escorted to the Athens County Sheriff’s Office in the back of a deputy’s cruiser.
Cummings and approximately two dozen protestors were at the site on Thursday afternoon. The group — along with the Athens County Fracking Action Network (AFCAN) — has filed a complaint with the federal
Environmental Protection Agency stating that the new well has already proven to be unsafe.
“Through a records request, community members have found ODNR reports showing that in January 2014, the drill rig at the K&H 2 unexpectedly hit saltwater and gas. When the pit overflowed with the fluid, a nearby creek was contaminated. After well operators initially attempted to build a containment wall with the contaminated soil, the company was told to remove up to 20 tons of contaminated soil and water,” a news release from Appalachia Resist alleges.
“Also during January, ODNR reports show that approximately 410 feet (or 200 bags) of cement disappeared down the well shaft during well construction," the release continues to allege. "Though this signifies probable cracks and fissures in the surrounding rock into which the cement may be leaking, neither K&H Partners nor ODNR has completed an adequate follow up investigation.”
Cummings said she was upset to find this information out after she and approximately 150 other people protested at the injection well’s entrance on Feb. 1. Eight people were arrested and charged with criminal trespass at that protest.
“In light of the recent studies that have linked fracking chemicals to birth defects, I feel sick when I think about all the babies and the pregnant friends that were protesting at this site in February, a couple of weeks after the brine spill,” Cummings said.
When asked about her decision to chain herself to the injection well’s entrance, Cummings said, “At this point, we’ve done everything we can to shut down the permitting of the second K&H, including a lawsuit, and they’re still going ahead and drilling and bringing in the waste. K&H is not safe and they’ve given us no choice but to stop it with our bodies.”
Cummings said she was willing to go to jail to speak up against fracking and injection wells.
“My land is here, my family is here and we have nothing to gain in Athens County from these injection wells and everything to lose,” she said. “This could end up creating a situation where Athens is toxic and not a place any of us can live, let alone farm and garden and feed ourselves, which quite frankly that’s why a lot of us are here. We have one of the most amazing sustainable food cultures anywhere in the country.”
Peggy Gish, 71, who was an organic farmer in Athens County for more than 30 years, stood next to Cummings at the injection well’s entrance on Thursday holding a sign that read “Stop! K&H not safe.” She was not arrested.
“I do this because I care about the health and safety of the people living in this region and for future generations who also want clean water, air, and land. Energy companies should not be allowed to make huge profits at the expense of the health and safety of the local people,” Gish said.
Gish said she frequently goes to Iraq to work with the Iraqi people to promote peace. She said she cares just as much about the people in Athens County who rely on clean water, soil and air for a living and to raise a healthy family.
Appalachia Resist member Madeline Ffitch said that Cummings was chained to the gate for about 30 minutes before deputies from the Athens County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene. Cummings was unchained from the fence and spoke with deputies and Athens County Interim Sheriff Rodney Smith before she was transported to the sheriff’s office. She was arrested without incident and handshakes with law enforcement were exchanged prior to Cummings being placed in the cruiser.
Cummings is slated to make her initial appearance in Athens County Municipal Court on Friday.