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How the City of Columbus could save us from radioactive fracking waste — but will they?

by Bob Fitrakis
November 23, 2013

The website says it all: RadioactiveWasteAlert.org.
The billboard with a young woman guzzling liquid with a radioactive warning on it under the phrase: “Don’t Frack My Water, Protect Columbus” set the stage for one of the most important public forums in the city’s history.
If we had to summarize the major themes that emerged from the Tuesday, November 12 Radioactive Frack Waste Forum, the first is this: the public has a right to know that much of the process allowing radioactive waste into the central Ohio watershed near Alum Creek is the result of hidden, behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Ohio legislators and Governor John Kasich.
Second: the frack waste is undisputedly radioactive and carcinogenic. Radium 226 found at 3000% over the allowable limit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long-established link to many forms of cancer, including breast and bone cancer.
Third: All landfills leak. If you put radioactivity into them, it will come out.
Fourth: Ohio has become a radioactive dumping ground for the fracking industry and is not importing the waste prohibited by the regulators in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Of the eight billion gallons of toxic radioactive waste injected into underground wells in Ohio over the last 30 years, half of it came from out-of –state.
Finally: Ohio is now poised to receive 19 million cubic feet of solid radioactive shell rock waste in the near future. Our 39 licensed landfills are de-regulated and open for the toxic imports.
The day before the Forum, “fracktivists” organizers went to Columbus City Council to present their well-documented findings. A few Council members noted that they had read about the radioactivity in the local news where it has been published in both the Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch, as well as reported by the local NBC affiliate, TV 4.
When Council President Andrew Ginther asked the City’s Public Health Director Theresa Long, she immediately declared, as public health directors have done in the past, that there was no threat to the health of Ohio citizens from a large radioactive waste site sitting right next to Alum Creek. She offered no data or facts with her analysis.
City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer asks the fracktivists the key question after the meeting: “What can the City of Columbus do, considering the current Ohio laws?”
That answer would be provided at the Forum. After an introduction by organizer Carolyn Harding, a series of radioactive waste experts and activists addressed this mounting health crisis. Dr. Julie Weatherington-Rice, an environmental consultant with a doctorate in soil science from Ohio State University, explained in detail what Long missed.
“They’ve de-regulated the drill cuttings. That’s 90% of what comes out of a bore hole. The mud is regulated yet every piece of cutting is covered in mud and it dries on the rocks. So if the mud is radioactive and it dries on the rocks, it means that the cuttings are of course radioactive,” she pointed out.
Weatherington-Rice said that most of the radioactivity comes from Radium 228 and 226. These are alpha and beta emitters. What the landfills use to detect radioactivity are Geiger counters. These are designed to detect gamma emissions.
Weatherington-Rice noted that the U.S. Department of Energy protocol requires that radium is not to be field tested by a Geiger counter, but isolated in a lab for 21 days to get a proper radioactivity reading. As she pointed out, amended House Bill 59, Ohio’s 2013 budget bill, has de-regulated “90% of the waste stream with no record-keeping requirement because they are calling the material ‘beneficial use.’”
For more than 30 years, Weatherington-Rice has been one of Ohio’s leading experts on groundwater protection. Long did not consult her before answering Columbus City Council members.
Terry Lodge, an environmental attorney from Toledo, detailed the backroom dealings that allowed radioactive material to be dumped so close to Columbus’ drinking water. He spoke of new Ohio laws that permit the “downblending” of highly toxic radioactive waste into less toxic material, freeing it from regulation. He also explained how defining drill cuttings as “beneficial use” as liners in landfills it can avoid testing or monitoring.
Lodge ended by saying, “I’m an activist. I’m ready for a fight.” Lodge is famous for using “guerilla” legal and populist strategies to fight frackers and other corporate polluters.
Perhaps the most chilling presentation was given by Dr. Yuri Gorby, a microbial physiologist and ecologist, who holds the Howard N. Blitman Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is an expert on the physical health effects of radioactivity and fracking waste. In his talk, Gorby stated that in his studies of fracking and radioactivity he noticed a variety of physical symptoms from bloody noses, burning eyes, rashes and neurological disorders including loss of memory, loss of sense of smell, anxiety, and tremors. Gorby said that he has been able to “fingerprint” through DNA many of the rashes directly to fracking. He warned that Ohio’s desire to allow the de-regulation of drill cutting with “no monitoring” will be disastrous for the health of our citizens.
His slide show, which is available at the website mentioned earlier, showed devastating illnesses among people exposed to toxic and radioactive fracking waste.
Nathan Johnson, an environmental attorney at the Forum, quickly answered the question on what the City of Columbus can do.
“They are allowed by law to establish and charge the companies for a program that would monitor for radioactivity in a proper lab test,” he said, “As long as they weren’t selective and charged everyone bringing in drill cuttings.”
On December 3 at 7pm, the group will meet again at the Columbus Public Library on Grant Street.
originally published at the freepress.org

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Bob’s Election Integrity Work

Election Assessment Hearing Kathy Dopp, Bill Moss, Robert Fitrakis, Richard Hayes Phillips

Election Assessment Hearing Kathy Dopp, Rev. Bill Moss, Robert Fitrakis, Richard Hayes Phillips

Fitrakis was an international election observer for the 1994 El Salvador presidential election and co-authored and edited the International Observer Election Report. Fitrakis’ investigative reporting on election irregularities and fraud began prior to the Florida debacle of the 2000 election. He uncovered the history and Republican and CIA connections to the electronic voting machine companies in several articles throughout 2000 prior to Election Day. He worked with the late Athan Gibbs, inventor of TruVote voting machines that supplied a paper trail, in exposing the flaws of computer voting machines.

He helped organize Election Protection activities in central Ohio for the 2004 election including Video the Vote and legal observers at the polls. He received international attention after being an Election Protection attorney during the 2004 Ohio presidential election, and subsequently investigating the election irregularities. He initiated the original public hearings at the New Faith Baptist Church and Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio two weeks after the November 2, 2004 Election Day to hear sworn testimony and take notarized affidavits from voters and observers who experienced election irregularities. Over 750 people participated in the hearings that were simultaneously broadcast on radio and on international media.

Dr. Fitrakis was instrumental in putting together a coalition of nonprofit organizations, public officials, attorneys, voters, videographers, and activists to continue the investigations across Ohio. He helped organize four other public hearings in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, and Warren, Ohio. In December 2004, Fitrakis testified before the Judiciary Committee of Congress at the request of Rep. John Conyers in both Washington D.C. and Columbus. The information gathered from the Free Press investigations and hearings resulted in the Conyers Report, “What Went Wrong in Ohio?” released January 5, 2005. Fitrakis spoke to the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Ohio’s election issues. Fitrakis was one of four attorneys who challenged the election results in federal court immediately after the election, Moss v, Bush, with the assistance of Rev. Jesse Jackson. While working with Jackson, Fitrakis briefed top Democratic leaders, including U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and helped organize and craft the language for the first Congressional challenge to the seating of Ohio’s delegates in our country’s history.

Fitrakis briefed John Kerry, worked on election reform with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-LA) and Rep. John Kerry (D-Atlanta), and briefed the Democratic Party Senate leadership. He later briefed the Congressional Progressive Caucus as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic leadership. Dr. Fitrakis testified at the Election Assessment hearings in Houston, Texas, which became part of the Carter-Baker Report. Throughout 2005-2007 Fitrakis organized investigators under the auspices of the CICJ to visit key Boards of Elections in Ohio to physically examine and count ballots, videotape and photograph election evidence, and write reports. Much of this evidence appears in his books and in a project he coordinated for an online digital archive.

Fitrakis co-authored What Happened in Ohio? A documentary record of theft and fraud in the 2004 election (New Press) and has authored or co-authored three other election books including How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008 the companion summary book to the 767-page volume Did George W. Bush Steal America’s 2004 Election? Essential Documents, co-edited with Harvey Wasserman and Steve Rosenfeld. He co-wrote the freepress.org article “How a Republican Election Supervisor Manipulated the 2004 Central Ohio Vote” that received the Project Censored Third Most Censored story in the world in 2005. He has written chapters for the book Hacked (Truth Enterprises Publishing) in 2006 and Mark Crispin Miller’s Loser Take All (Ig Publishing) in 2008.

Fitrakis has been interviewed on countless national and local radio and TV programs as an expert on Ohio’s election irregularities and subsequent election reform issues. He was a featured speaker at the first voting rights teach-in in Berkeley in February 2005 and at national organizing conferences for the growing voting rights movement from San Francisco to Nashville to New York City. Fitrakis received a grant to take his books on a west coast book tour from San Diego to Seattle during 2005. He helped a coalition of individuals and groups hold a 3-day Voting Rights Revival conference in Columbus in 2005 and another in 2008. Over 10 national and international independent video documentaries feature Fitrakis, including the Sundance Award-winning “American Blackout” by Ian Inaba of GNN. Through the Free Press, he and the Ecological Options Network co-produced the short video “Help America Vote on Paper” on election reform advocacy video that has been distributed worldwide. On behalf of the Free Press, Fitrakis wrote and received two national grants to continue the election reform work through 2006 and 2007. Fitrakis was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now and by Lou Dobbs on CNN.

Fitrakis ran for Governor of Ohio in 2006 as an independent endorsed by the Green Party on a platform of election reform. He worked with five other independent statewide candidates to place dozens of election rights observers inside the polling sites and Boards of Elections on Election Day throughout Ohio. Gore Vidal volunteered to help Fitrakis with his campaign. Vidal sponsored and appeared alongside him at a fund-raiser and live Pacifica radio broadcast in Santa Monica. Fitrakis successfully brought the election irregularities to public attention, as well as the criminal antics of his Republican opposition for governor Ohio’s Secretary of State J. . Blackwell was sorely trounced in the election and is no longer a political entity in Ohio, and Fitrakis received 41,000 votes.

As of June 2008, Fitrakis is currently co-counsel in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville lawsuit against the Ohio Secretary of State’s office seeking to end racially discriminatory electoral practices in Ohio and to ensure free and fair elections. Fitrakis authored a 50-point consent decree to ensure election integrity in Ohio submitted to the current Secretary of State. Many of these proposals have been adopted by the state of Ohio. He continues to speak on radio and TV programs, present at conferences, and help produce independent election-related videos. He and Wasserman continue to report regularly on election reform issues in the Free Press, on freepress.org and numerous other progressive websites such as Counterpunch, Commondreams, Salon, Alternet, and Bradblog – as well as their own internet radio program at freepress.org/podcasts.

Fitrakis continues to lead annual election protection efforts in Ohio. The Post-election report of 2008 was brought before the UN by the International Association of Educators for World Peace. In 2008, the CICJ exposed that over 1.25 million voters had been purged in Ohio and in 2012 was able to document that over 1 million voters were purged in the Buckeye State. Fitrakis is currently working with Harvey Wasserman in updating their election book for a new edition in 2012.