Anti-fracking billboards in Ohio coming down

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" in opposing the disposal of gas-drilling wastewater says the messages will come down Tuesday.

Michael Boals, of Coshocton east of Columbus, told The Associated Press the billboards' owners are ending his three-month verbal agreement after two months. Well-owner Buckeye Brine, of Austin, Texas, filed a lawsuit in July over the ads, contending the signs contain false and defamatory attacks.

The company and the well's local operator, Rodney Adams, objected to statements on the two billboards along U.S. Route 36, including a sign that quoted says "DEATH may come."

A message left with Buckeye Brine on Monday wasn't immediately returned. It defends the wells as safe, legal and compliant with all state regulations.

Boals, a 55-year-old timber harvester, had refused to pull the billboards on free speech grounds. He said they cost him more than $1,000 and contained no false information.

One billboard states that injection wells "pump POISONED WATERS under the feet of America's Citizens." The second sign quotes prophecy from Revelation — on men dying from waters "made bitter."

Shale oil and gas drilling employing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, produces millions of gallons of chemical-laced wastewater. The liquid, called brine, is a mix of chemicals, saltwater, naturally occurring radioactive material and mud. It's considered unsafe for groundwater and aquifers, so Ohio regulations require waste liquid to be contained and injected deep underground.

Ohio has recorded no aquifer contamination. But as the state grapples with some 16 million gallons of the wastewater a year, it's seen earthquakes linked to injection wells and a Youngstown-area businessman indicted in a federal wastewater dumping case.

The state announced on Friday that it was halting operations at a deep injection site in northeast Ohio after finding possible evidence it caused a 2.1-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 31. An investigation is ongoing.