A coalition of Ohio eco-groups and individuals on Thursday submitted testimony to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with citizen concerns about Ohio’s injection wells.
The materials were sent to the agency as it begins a federal audit of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and what critics called the state’s poor oversight of injection wells that handle liquid drilling wastes.
The testimony and documents cite a long list of ODNR failures to administer the program in compliance with federal and state laws.
The materials also outline a scenario where lax regulation and enforcement in Ohio has led to an influx of drilling waste from states like Pennsylvania, where the U.S. EPA administers the injection programs.
Ohio repeatedly has defended its handling of injection wells.
The materials were submitted after the federal agency refused to schedule public testimony on injection wells.
The federal audit stems from a complaint letter filed with the EPA last March.
The audit was to have been conducted earlier this fall but was postponed by the federal government shutdown. It will begin early next year.
“The U.S. EPA has informed ODNR that they are planning to conduct their regularly scheduled audit of Ohio’s underground injection control program in the spring of 2014,” Mark Bruce, public information officer for ODNR said in an email to the Beacon Journal. “Ohio has some of the toughest environmental regulations in the country that we’ve historically enforced professionally and fairly. As a result, Ohio has earned the right from the U.S. EPA to enforce federal laws here, something it doesn’t let other states do.
“U.S. EPA regularly inspects state’s work, and we welcome that review,” Bruce said.
Injection wells came under scrutiny in Ohio after a series of earthquakes in Youngstown were linked to an injection well in Mahoning County.
Some activists are troubled by the threat that injection wells with toxic and low-level radioactive wastes might pose to Ohio’s groundwater.
“Overall, ODNR is doing little to address countless violations beyond a simple phone call or email. No fines and hardly any notices. ... That’s not enforcement,” said Teresa Mills of Center for Health and Environmental Justice.
Stripping the ODNR of its authority to oversee the injection program and requiring federal oversight might be the best way to proceed, said Cheryl Johncox of the Buckeye Forest Council.
Some critics have called for a ban on injection wells in Ohio.
The federal EPA audited Ohio’s injection program in 2005 and 2009 and gave its approval both times.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.