NILES, Ohio — Two Youngstown community members were arrested today at a nonviolent protest of an injection well, which was attended by about 50 protesters from around Ohio and Pennsylvania. The two protesters who were arrested stood in front of the well gate and blocked trucks from entering, holding a sign that read “Fracking Hurts Communities.” Meanwhile, the rest of the protesters participated in a spiritual ceremony led by Reverend Monica Beasley-Martin. The well where the protests took place is the first in the Niles area; it is less than a mile from the downtown areas.

Despite the harmful effects of injection wells, which include decreased air quality and contaminated drinking water, the state of Ohio has so far sided with fracking companies, according to the protesters. “The state of Ohio has refused to protect its communities from fracking. Hydraulic fracturing is poisoning our community and endangering our health, so we've come together today as a community to symbolically cleanse our water and take a stand for our health. The state government won't protect our well-being, so we've decided to protect it ourselves,” said Chris Khumprakob, a resident of Youngstown, Ohio who was arrested during the protest.

Injection wells let drillers dispose of fracking wastewater by placing it deep underground; this practice has been linked to several earthquakes, including a magnitude 4.0 earthquake in Youngstown on New Year's Eve, 2011, and more than 11 subsequent quakes since the placement of wells in the area. Local communities have tried to take matters into their own hands, but have met with resistance from the state. Last year, both Weathersfield township and the city of Niles banned injection wells; nevertheless, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has permitted this well.

“The Weathersfield township trustees and Niles city council are attempting to protect the health and safety of our residents by banning injection wells, but the state of Ohio won’t listen to them. This is just another example of the state government choosing corporate wealth over community health. We stand together with our city council to say that we do not want this toxic trespasser put in place,” said John Williams, a resident of McDonald, Ohio who was arrested during the protest. According to Ohio Revised Code, the ODNR has “sole and exclusive authority” to permit drilling operations in the state, regardless of what is agreed upon at the local municipal level.

While Williams and Khumprakob blockaded the well, the rest of the protesters participated in a “water blessing.” The ceremony consisted of a sermon given over the polluted water, which was brought by the protesters from all over the region to be blessed and symbolically purified, while the other protesters observed and sang together.

“Clean water is essential for mankind’s continued survival. Like the Prophet Jeremiah before me, there is a burning fire, shut up in my bones, that compels me to speak out against this planned destruction of our water supply. We are not expendable!” said Rev. Beasley-Martin, who led the ceremony.

The residents of Niles do not stand alone in their efforts to raise voices against fracking. Today’s event is just one example of a broad-based movement sweeping across both Ohio and the United States. A moratorium on underground injection wells has been introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives on the grounds that injection wells in response to the disturbance of faultlines in the Youngstown area. The moratorium would halt underground injection wells until January 1, 2015.