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Ohio Utica Shale

Utica drilling fears trigger new water study by Garrettsville

By Bob Downing Published: July 7, 2013

GARRETTSVILLE: Fearing contamination from natural gas drilling, Garrettsville has gone on the offensive to protect its drinking water.

This Portage County village has completed a detailed analysis of its drinking water that was fueled by fears of problems from Utica shale drilling.

The analysis of the underground watershed by outside consultants shows that the village’s drinking water is safe, although a few minor problems were detected.

The village will host a public meeting on the test results at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Village Hall, 8213 High St.

It is the kind of water testing that more Ohio communities will likely undertake as Utica shale drilling grows.

The village in 2011 began studying the issue and planning what to do. Initially, 20 private wells were tested. That number later dropped to 16. The wells were tested twice in 2012 and again last spring Another round of tests is possible this fall.

The testing was centered in the ground water recharge and flow areas in nearby townships that feed the village’s two wells.

"We’re pleased with the results… but we didn’t want to be surprised by a problem," said Fran Teresi of the village’s Board of Public Affairs.

The testing and analysis cost Garrettsville $35,000. "For us, it was a project worth doing," she said.

The water tests also give the village a baseline look at what’s in the drinking water before potential problems arise from drilling or from injection wells used to get rid of drilling wastes.

A horizontal well by Mountaineer Keystone was drilled off Udall Road in nearby Hiram Township. It sits just upstream from Garrettsville’s well field and could threaten the village’s drinking water, if problems were to develop.

Additional production wells are being drilled to the east in Nelson and Windham townships.

Portage County is No. 1 in Ohio for 2012 volumes of drilling waste going into injection wells with 2.3 million barrels, according to state data.

There have been 185 drinking water contamination problems from old and new wells in Ohio from 1983 to 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Garrettsville consulted with that agency, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Health and the Portage County Health Department.

The village water department supplies an average of 90 million gallons of water per year to 2,400 water customers. It relies on two wells located northeast of the center of the village.

The plan was to detect any ground water contamination before it reaches the village’s well field.

Contracts were drawn up with JD Environmental Consulting LLC of Youngstown and with private water well owners in Hiram and Nelson townships for water sampling in the village’s underground watershed.

The county health agency collected the water samples. The analysis was done by Alloway Labs of Marion.

The test results were analyzed by Dr. Jeffrey Dick, the chief geologist, and Anna Draa, the project geologist, of the consulting firm. Dick is also a professor at Youngstown State University.

Water in the aquifer generally moves from northwest to southeast with a flow rate of 5 to 20 feet per day through sand and gravel, the study says.

The water met 18 federal parameters for public drinking water supplies. The water exceeded federal limits for five secondary parameters: aluminum, iron, manganese, chloride and total dissolved solids. Those constituents are common to well water in Northeast Ohio.

The tests detected one well impacted by septic effluent, five from underground brines, 12 from farm runoff and three from road salt.

Elevated methane levels were found in four wells off Mills Road, and may be linked to an abandoned natural gas well nearby, the study says.

The report offered several suggestions including installing methane vents in houses where the potentially explosive gas was found in the water wells.

It recommended that the village continue the testing the wells in the community twice a year to assure that problems don’t develop. It is unclear what water testing Garrettsville will conduct in the future, Teresi said.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

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.