GARRETTSVILLE: Fearing contamination from natural gas drilling, Garrettsville has gone on the offensive to protect its drinking water.
An analysis of the underground watershed by outside consultants shows the village’s drinking water is safe, although a few minor problems were detected.
The village will host a public meeting to discuss the test results at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Village Hall, 8213 High St.
It is the kind of water testing more communities are likely to undertake as drilling continues to expand above the abundant Utica shale formation in eastern Ohio.
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 this past spring. Another round of tests is possible this fall.
Testing was centered in the groundwater 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, a member of the village’s Board of Public Affairs.
The testing and analysis cost Garrettsville $35,000.
“For us, it was a project worth doing,” Teresi 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 the injection wells used to dispose of drilling wastes.
In the Garrettsville area. Mountaineer Keystone has drilled a horizontal wall off Udall Road in nearby Hiram Township. The well sits just upstream from the village’s well field, creating a potential threat to the village’s drinking water if any problems were to develop.
Additional production wells are being drilled to the east of the village in Nelson and Windham townships.
Another reason to be proactive: Portage County ranked No. 1 in Ohio for volume of drilling waste going into injection wells in 2012 with 2.3 million barrels, according to state data.
Other data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources indicate 185 problems with contaminated drinking water from old and new wells reported from 1983 to 2007.
Garrettsville’s water department supplies an average of 90 million gallons of water per year to 2,400 customers. It relies on two wells, located northeast of the center of town.
The village consulted with ODNR, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Department of Health and the Portage County Health Department about the issue. Its goal: detect any groundwater contamination before it reaches the 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 sampling in the village’s underground watershed.
The county health agency collected the water samples for testing by Alloway Labs of Marion.
Dr. Jeffrey Dick, the chief geologist, and Anna Draa, the project geologist, of the consulting firm analyzed the results. 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. It 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 affected 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 might 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.
Among the recommendations are that the village continue testing wells in the community twice a year to assure problems don’t develop.
Teresi said it is unclear what water testing Garrettsville will conduct in the future.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.