YOUNGSTOWN — Without a doubt, injection wells in Ohio will continue to be a hot topic in the future.
Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone convened a public meeting of the city of Youngstown public utilities committee Jan. 11 at the Covelli Center in Youngstown. Area residents came in the hopes of finding out some information about the possible tie between the injection well located on the west side of Youngstown on Salt Springs Road and the 11 earthquakes documented in 2011.
Representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Council, and Ohio Oil and Gas Association, joined Jeffrey C. Dick, chair of the department of geological and environmental sciences at Youngstown State University, to give their outlook on the situation.
Brine injection wells
One thing that the crowd learned from the meeting is that Ohio reportedly accepts brine water from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. This fluid is used in conjunction with Marcellus and Utica shale drilling. However, since the Pennsylvania governor shut down brine disposal in that state, 54 percent of the brine water deposited into injection wells in Ohio has been from out of state.
The presentations, however, were frequently interrupted by state Rep. Bob Hagan, D- Youngstown, who tried to get the speakers to stop talking and to give the public time to comment.
“Their answers are long-winded and not giving answers as to why the earthquake occurred,” said Hagan.
Hagan said he was not aware the amount of brine water being deposited was mainly from outside of Ohio.
Dick said until there is evidence, the well, the timing of the earthquakes and the location of the quakes are little more than coincidence. He said the well is 9,192 feet deep and the well casing is 8,215 feet.
“These earthquakes are not found near injection wells, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” said Dick.
It’s not known how long it will take experts to look at existing and new seismic data to confirm the earthquakes’ cause.
Chief Larry Wickstrom, ODNR, division of geological survey, was asked if the earthquakes would have occurred if the site had been placed 10 miles from its current location.
He said there really is no way to know because no one can see what is underground but that it is unlikely it would have occurred.
The injection well in question is a Class II well, meaning Ohio controls the inspections and what goes into it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees Class I wells. However, Ohio follows federal code for Class II injection wells and, according to the ODNR, has stricter laws than the federal code.
Ohio Oil and Gas Association President Bill Kinney said there were some exceptional things about this particular well. Water was being forced into the granite in the ground, there was no porosity, and water was reportedly going into a fault.
“There were no other wells going into the granite in Ohio,” said Kinney.
Jack Shaner, Ohio Environmental Council, offered suggestions about future well development and management.
The council’s suggestions include that a required newspaper advertisement to let the public know about new wells should be published for four weeks instead of one time. He also suggested that the public comment period be extended to 15 days and that the public be able to comment by jurisdiction.
The council also wants Class II wells to be treated like Class I wells, which would be controlled by the U.S. EPA.
The last suggestion includes requiring a seismic study for a proposed well before the permit is issued by ODNR.