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Ohio Utica Shale

Activists file complaint against Portage County injection well

By Bob Downing Published: June 30, 2014

From Concerned Citizens Ohio:

On June 27, 2014, Concerned Citizens Ohio, Portage County’s environmental and human rights group, brought a complaint to the United States Environmental Protection Agency against the Kovach enhanced recovery injection well at 9795-9899 Coit Road in Mantua, Shalersville Township. Along with the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, the complaint states that the well has received millions of gallons of waste illegally for years. The two groups are asking for an immediate “cease and desist” order to stop further dumping. 

 “Injection wells are dumps for oil and gas hazardous waste,” said Mary Greer, coordinator of Concerned Citizens Ohio. “Residents are shocked to find out that this well appears to have operated as a disposal well without a permit in our county for years. With Portage County’s 18 injection wells, more than any other county in the state, we already bear all the risk while the well owners and out-of-state companies get all of the profit.”

According to research conducted by the CHEJ, the Coit Road enhanced recovery well was permitted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources only in order to stimulate production by two nearby wells.

However, Ohio Department of Natural Resources documents show that one nearby well has not produced oil or gas since 1985 and the other has not produced since 2011.

Despite their lack of production , this injection well has continued to receive over 34 million gallons of hazardous and toxic oil and gas well waste from Ohio and out-of-state fracked wells.

Specifically, according to the ODNR’s own records, a total of 34,687,884 gallons of oil/gas fluid waste have been dumped since 1982. And since 2011, ODNR well documents reveal that that the well has received 2,549,400 gallons of that total amount, also without ODNR oversight or compliance with regulations.

Teresa Mills, Center for Health and Environmental Justice, points out that “The well’s illegal status is the result of the lack of ODNR oversight. Since this well is not enhancing any production well, it is functioning as an illegal injection disposal well. ODNR is on notice of this violation and should have acted to prevent it years ago.”

 The ODNR’s regulations explain that a well that does not assist in the production of oil is no longer operating as an “enhanced recovery well ” as defined in OAC 1501:9-5-01(A). Enhanced recovery is “any injection of natural gas, water, or other fluids approved by the division into an oil or gas reservoir to increase pressure or retard pressure decline in the reservoir for the purpose of increasing the recovery of oil or other hydrocarbons therefrom . . .”

 Further, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has allowed this ERW to be in violation of OAC 1501: 9-5-10 (J) which states: Any input well which is or becomes incapable of injecting fluids or any withdrawal well which is or becomes incapable of producing oil or gas shall be plugged in accordance with sections 1509.13and 2509.25 [ 1509.25probably intended] of the Revised Code, unless written permission is granted by the chief. If the chief finds that a well should be plugged, he shall notify the project owner to that effect by order, in writing, and shall specify in such order a reasonable time within which to comply. No project owner shall fail or refuse to plug a well within the time specified in the order. Each day on which such a well remains unplugged thereafter constitutes a separate offense.

“The ODNR has not followed its own rules,” Mills said. “By the ODNR’s own rules, the well is illegal. Bringing forward this complaint to the USEPA is the only option left to citizens who understand the impact that hazardous chemicals can have in a community.”

 “It’s another instance of citizens having no voice in protection from industries,” said George Sosebee, a member of CCO. “We are relying on unelected officials who have put the profitability of the oil and gas companies ahead of the rights and wellbeing of individuals.”

 CHEJ and CCO are turning to the USEPA because Ohio law does not provide any mechanism for Ohio citizens to force enforcement of Class II violations by state officials.

 The formal citizens’ complaint to the United States Environmental Protection Agency requests that the “cease and desist” order be enacted so that the injection well, which was not intended for ongoing dumping of fracking fluids, can be plugged immediately.

 “The USEPA, must take action because it has oversight authority over the Ohio Class II UIC (Underground Injection Control) program. Also, the Ohio Class II UIC program is not operating in a manner consistent with the goals of the federal UIC program, with federal public oversight standards, or with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is the kind of failure that the USEPA is supposed to stop,” said Mills.

 “Portage County is the target dumping ground in the state for oil and gas waste,” said Greer. “That makes regulatory oversight of critical importance. “For example, people worry about cement failure around well casings. If this enhanced recovery well on Coit Road in Mantua has been operating illegally, what might that mean for potential contamination of water to nearby residents in the Coit and Frost Roads area, or neighborhood homes in Mantua and Shalersville Township? What about the Shalersville Water Well field, directly across the road from the injection well?”

 “Some of Portage County injection wells were built in the 1970’s,” Greer added. “It’s only common sense to realize that well leaks are going to happen eventually. These are practices that risk our aquifers—our only water source. Unsupervised, unregulated illegal wells have got to be stopped.”

 Portage County’s own Concerned Citizens Ohio has taken an active role in educating the public about injection and fracking well impacts, including creating programs for free public water testing, leasing practices for pipelines, hydrofracking presentations, and supporting the statewide petitions to ban all injection wells from the state of Ohio.

 Center for Health, Environment & Justice is a national, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that provides organizing and technical assistance to grassroots community groups in the environmental health and justice movement.CHEJ was founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs, who helped win the relocation of over 900 families from their neighborhood contaminated by chemicals from the Love Canal landfill in Niagara Falls, NY. Through this effort, Gibbs and her neighbors woke the nation to the link between exposures to dangerous chemicals in communities and serious public health impacts. Teresa Mills handles field operations in Ohio.

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.