My southeastern Ohio town in the Appalachian foothills is a small, rural place where the demolition derby is a hot ticket, Walmart is the biggest store, and people in the surrounding villages must often drive for 30 minutes to grocery shop.
We hold the unfortunate distinction of being the poorest county in the state: an area that is both stunning — with rolling hills, rocky cliffs, pastures, and ravines — and inaccessible, far from industry.
It’s here, at the Hazel Ginsburg well, that fracking companies dump their waste. Trucks ship that sludge of toxic chemicals and undrinkable water across the country and inject it into my county’s forgotten ground.
My step-grandmother, the daughter of a Kentucky miner, used to tell me stories of washing her clothes in polluted red water, downstream from mines. Coal companies exploited employees like her father, paying him in company scrip and keeping him poor and exploiting the land.
That kind of abuse continues. It’s just changed shape. The Ginsburg well has a long history of violations, so many that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered it shut.
It was not.
It’s a pit well, which looks like an old swimming pool, covered by a tarp. No sign indicates the presence of chemicals, just a “no trespassing” sign. Allegedly, a guard will snap your picture if you stop or turn your car around. The well is located in a residential area, with houses — some with swing sets — just down the road.
In 2012, Madeline ffitch (whose last name is spelled lowercase and with the double ff) was arrested there. Her arrest was part of an action by a local anti-fracking group, Appalachia Resist. The then 31-year-old’s arms were locked into cement-filled plastic drums just before the gates, blocking the entrance.
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