Map of the Western Reserve Including the Fire Lands in Ohio.
Allen Taylor, Nelson-Portage County, OhioMap of the Western Reserve including the Firelands in Ohio.

Welcome to Portage County, Ohio, the biggest dumping ground for fracking waste in a state that is fast becoming the go-to destination for the byproducts of America’s latest energy boom.

As fracking — pumping a briny solution of water, lubricants, anti-bacterial agents, and a cocktail of other chemicals into underground shale formations at high pressure to fracture the rock and extract trapped natural gas — has expanded in the Midwest, so has the need for disposing of used fracking fluid. That fracking waste can be recycled or processed at wastewater treatment facilities, much like sewage. But most of the waste — 630 billion gallons, each year — goes back into the ground, pumped into disposal wells, which are then capped and sealed. A bunch of it ends up underneath Portage County.