Hydraulic fracturing or fracking for natural gas in the Utica shale has not created any major problems with Ohio’s drinking water, says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Its Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has investigated 183 water well complaints filed by Ohio landowners from 2010 through mid-October. .
A total of six water supplies were impacted by drilling over the nearly four-year period, said state spokesman Mark Bruce.
But all of those problems stemmed from old, vertical only wells, not today’s big horizontal wells that rely on fracking to free up natural gas, oil and other liquids from rocks deep underground, he said.
To date, Ohio has approved 927 horizontal wells in the Utica shale, of which 577 have been drilled, as of Oct. 12. A total of 164 Utica wells are in production. Thirty drilling rigs are in Ohio.
"None of the impacted water supplies were related to hydraulic fracturing or horizontal shale drilling," he said in an e-mail.
That information is not surprising, said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for Energy in Depth-Ohio, a pro-industry drilling group.
Older wells and abandoned wells are more likely to create water well problems with neighbors than the horizontal wells, he said.
"There’s nothing with Utica wells at all," he said.
Senate Bill 165 tightened Ohio’s rules on well construction and should further reduce the risk when those rules are adopted, he said.
Activists are concerned that 5 million gallons of water are used to frack a well and that the water cannot be cleaned up and reused and is lost by injecting it into rocks below ground in Ohio, said Mary Greer of Shalersville Township, a spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens Ohio.
"That’s wrecked water. It cannot be remediated and can’t be used again," she said of wastewater that gets injected.
Surface spills that can pollute drinking water remain the biggest concern, she said.
According to the state’s data:
2010: A total of 37 water supply complaints were filed and investigated in Ohio. There were zero impacted water supplies.
2011: The state received 54 new complaints. It found two impacted water supplies.
2012: A total of 59 complaints were received with 56 investigations completed. Two impacted water supplies were found.
2013: The state has gotten 33 new complaints, as of Wednesday. . Of that total, 19 investigations have been completed. There were two impacted water supplies.
Most complaints associated with drilling are about drinking-water wells that run dry or produce water that is discolored, smelly or filled with sediment.
But gas from poorly cased and poorly cemented wells can seep into neighboring drinking water wells.
There is another contributing factor: Ohio has shallow pockets of natural gas that can also get into groundwater. Drilling gets blamed for something that has been going on for years, pro-drilling groups say.
One Ohio complaint came in 2011 from Carroll County where the state found high levels of salt in a well in Brown Township. It was traced by the state to a leak from a nearby drilling rig’s temporary disposal pit. The company involved, EnerVest, supplied clean drinking water for several months until the salt levels dropped.
In comparison, Pennsylvania where drilling began in the Marcellus shale earlier than Ohio’s drilling has received 969 complaints since 2008, according to its Department of Environmental Protection. Drilling and leaks/spills were linked to 106 water problems, the agency said.
Experts encourage homeowners to have their water tested for methane and other contaminants before drilling begins because such baseline tests are essential, especially if problems arise later.
Ohio also requires drillers to test neighbors’ water wells within 1,500 feet of drilling sites.
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.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
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.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.