The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 19, 2014

Advice about drilling: Learn all you can

BROOKFIELD — The mere mention of oil and gas drilling sparks an emotional reaction. There are those vehemently opposed for fear of environmental contamination, and those wildly excited about the local economic impact of a gas boom.

But no matter which side you’re on, educating yourself about what exactly is happening is the answer, according to local government leaders, geologists and the drillers themselves.

Residents of Brookfield shouted questions to township trustees at a meeting last week, once word got out that American Energy of Cortland, Ohio, received approval from the state to put a Class 2 saltwater injection well on the old arsenal property at McMullen Road and state Route 7.  The proposed site is about a half-mile from the Brookfield K-12 school complex.

“Why here? Why bring the garbage and dump it in Ohio? What are you going to do about this?” asked a woman, who identified herself only as Patty.

Trustees had little to say about the proposed well, but did say that although they heard that the driller was going to set up a public meeting with them, nothing has happened. The board was in a similar situation a year ago when another company proposed a similar well along Warner Road and in October 2012 passed a resolution prohibiting a saltwater well from being constructed near a residential center.

That permit ultimately was denied by the state and no well was drilled.

The problem is that the trustees lack the ability to enforce any such ordinance.

Officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approve the permits. For that agency to deny a permit, it has to be proven that the drilling poses a safety risk, according to Heidi Hetzel-Evans, an ODNR spokesperson.

Dion Magestro, who just took office in his first term as a trustee, said he thinks it’s important for residents to educate themselves about drilling and hydraulic fracturing and the dangers associated with the process before they attend any public meeting.

“Everyone, myself included, needs to get online and find out more about it, so we can ask educated questions about what’s happening.”

Robert G. Barnett, president of American Energy, said he plans to attend the trustees’ next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Feb. 3.

“I plan on being there. And I’ll answer every question they have. I’m being very honest when I say we aren’t forcing this down anyone’s throat, and I know that lately there’s been a lot of bad publicity about this because of the dealings of another company, who were doing some bad things. But if this industry is to continue, we have to get rid of this waste somewhere,” he said.

Barnett, a geologist, is convinced the process is safe, due in large part to the design of the plan, the safety barriers put in place and ODNR’s scrutiny.

He isn’t concerned, he said, about an earthquake, because the pressures are monitored so closely. The saltwater well is drilled to about 8,500 feet, where four layers of concrete casing surround the lining of the pipe, ending deep inside the earth, past layers of rock that are not porous and will not allow the water to seep back up to the ground.

“Everything is protected. Nothing is going to contaminate any drinking water. And we’ll be monitoring those pressures, and if they start to get high, which tells us that the well can’t handle anymore water, we’ll shut it off. We have a kill switch right there,” he said.

Asked about concerns that the disposal well is right beside the school, Barnett said, “They’re not even going to know we’re drilling. It’s not a problem.”

School Superintendent Tim Saxton, nonetheless, would like an opportunity to speak with Barnett about the well. “I want to know what studies have been done. What’s the traffic situation? Some of this is untested in the long-term.

“I’d like to be cautiously optimistic in that it’s great for the area, any economic boom is great, but I don’t know that. I think given what’s happened in other locales, that the ODNR is a lot more in tune with this and will monitor compliance issues,” Saxton said.

Barnett said he expects about 10 trucks a day hauling the brine and plans to operate only during daylight hours, allowing about 1,000 barrels a day to be dumped.

Local geology experts Lindell Bridges and his partner, Laurel Alexander, who together run Pure Earth Resources in Sharpsville, said they believe  much of the panic over fracking and drilling comes from misinformation.

Bridges has traveled the world from Alaska to China lecturing on drilling and the effects of fracking and has worked drilling thousands of wells in his home state of Arkansas. He’s spoken at Cornell University and at Carnegie Mellon University. He’s scheduled to travel to the Middle East in March for a similar lecture.

“I’ve spoken to everyone from first-graders to college students to CEOs,” Bridges said, “and I’d like to say that fracking isn’t anything new. We’ve been doing it since 1859, when they ‘shot’ the well in Venango County.

“We’ve been using modern fracking techniques since 1947,” he said.

Bridges explained that fracking is simply drilling a well, but horizontally, and injecting water to break up the rocks some 6,000 feet down, which then allows oil and gas in those formations to flow into the well and be pumped to the surface.

At times, chemicals are added to increase the “flow” of the water through the rock formations and when that wastewater comes back out of the ground, it contains some of those chemicals, Bridges said. But he cannot find a documented case, anywhere, where the wastewater has leaked and contaminated any groundwater.

“I go to give these talks and I get protesters who yell ‘You’re killing people!’ Well, who? Name me one person who died, and I’ll certainly look into it,” he said.

The recycled water that comes as a result of fracking contains many solids, Bridges said, and is primarily salt, but still has to be disposed of safely. Drilling a well down 8,500 feet, miles below the drinking water aquifer that feeds the water supply is the safest way, he said.

The reason that so many companies seek to dispose of the water in Ohio is because of the geologic formation beneath the ground. In Pennsylvania to the east and areas farther west, the rocks underneath lack the porosity and permeability to hold the wastewater.

“If you go by the regulations and do your background work, you can do a lot to mitigate any risk,” said Alexander.

ODNR posted several information videos on its website, which Lindberg and Alexander recommend viewing. The videos provide a dramatization of the drilling and safety measures. They can be seen at www.oilandgas.ohiodnr.com

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Intruder hurts woman, takes $5

    A home invasion in Hermitage Friday night sent an elderly woman to the hospital and netted the robber $5.

    July 27, 2014

  • national night out March against crime set for Aug. 5

    At the last Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission meeting, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. presented the number of incidents for each of the four communities in May.

    Farrell topped out at 819.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • high street trail Peaceful pathways

    History buffs and picnickers in the Shenango Valley won’t have to drive to Sharpsville to hang out at the old Erie Canal extension lock. They’ll soon have the option to walk or roll in on bicycles and even powered chairs to visit Canal Park near the outflow of Shenango Dam.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • balloonquest1 Balloon Quest celebrates 25 years

    Today is the final day of the 25th annual Western Pennsylvania Balloon Quest at Scotland Meadows Park.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from July 26, 2014

    Man faces bomb threat charges

    June building tops $4 million in Hermitage

    July 26, 2014

  • Elderly man survives plane crash

    An elderly man survived wrecking his plane into a bank, then landing into a wetland, about 200 feet south of Runway 28 at Grove City Regional Airport in Springfield Township on Friday.

    July 26, 2014

  • Dontae Rashad Pinkins Man arrested for April gunfight

    Federal marshals and local police arrested Dontae Rashad Pinkins Thursday on a warrant accusing him of involvement in an April gunfight with another man in a Sharon alley.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hearing changed in starving case

    The time and place for the preliminary hearing of a Greenville mom accused of starving and beating her 7-year-old young son has been changed.

    July 26, 2014

  • Schell working on mural Drawn to Mexico

    Jason Schell probably is not exaggerating when he says that millions of people have seen his art.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • Farrell man, 24, arrested on warrant in connection with April shooting

    Federal marshals and local police arrested Dontae Rashad Pinkins Thursday on a warrant accusing him of involvement in an April shootout in Sharon.


    Pinkins, 24, of Farrell, is in Mercer County Jail after failing to post bond on gun charges.

    Additional details to follow.
     

    July 25, 2014

  • Firm will study timing of traffic signals

    Hermitage commissioners on Wednesday hired Whitman, Requardt and Associates LLP to study the timing scheme of traffic signals along parts of Hermitage Road and East State Street.

    July 25, 2014

  • 3 area fire depts. awarded grants

    Three area fire departments will share in more than $590,000 in grants meant to help Pennsylvania’s rural communities guard against the threat of fires in forests and other undeveloped areas, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Ellen Ferretti announced.

    July 25, 2014

  • One suspect in home shooting is jailed

    The first of three suspects police say were involved in an attempted robbery that ended in a shooting is in jail.

    July 25, 2014

  • Dancing kids K.I.D.S. day

    Hoping to reach children at just the right age, when they are old enough to understand but not past the point where it may be too late, Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission counselors held an “alternative activities” day at the courthouse Thursday, complete with music and dancing, hot dogs and treats, games and T-shirts.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Better security Grant available to boost security in district courts

    County officials are looking to quickly upgrade security systems in the five district judge offices, not due to an increase in risk, but because current systems are antiquated and there is a short window to apply for some financial help with the costs.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo