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
  • Prison term upheld for sex offender

    A sex offender challenging a 4- to 8-year prison sentence for a probation violation lost an appeal of that sentence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man, 24, must register as sex offender for life

    The Ohio man who exposed himself to Sharon girls on their way to school last fall must register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life when he gets out of jail.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man deemed predator – for now

    A former Sharon man was sent to the state prison system Tuesday for corrupting the morals of a teenage girl, but the question of whether his penalties under Megan’s Law will stand could be subject to future legal proceedings.

    April 23, 2014

  • Not even waste will be wasted

    Tom Darby admits he wishes the startup of the anaerobic digestion process at the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Plant had moved along much faster.

    April 23, 2014

  • 3rd Earth Fest draws families to Penn State

    Penn State Shenango’s Earth Fest has become a spring tradition for area residents.
    Families poured into downtown Sharon for the campus’ third annual sustainability celebration.

    April 22, 2014

  • Amish clean Shenango River Volunteers protect Shenango River

    Shenango River Watchers has spent more than a decade working to clean up the Shenango and improve recreational access to its water and banks.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • For many, recycling’s become way of life

    When Pennsylvania mandated curbside recycling for its larger municipalities in 1998 – those with more than 5,000 people – there was grumbling about government interference in the lives of everyday people.

    April 22, 2014

  • Many items can’t be thrown away

    The computer screen in front of you isn’t likely to do you much harm, at least not until it’s tossed in a landfill where the lead-filled components start to leak and eventually find their way into your drinking water, according to Jerry Zona, director of the Lawrence-Mercer County Recycling/Solid Waste department.

    April 22, 2014

  • David Sykes' solar panels Earthworks

    While touring Germany last year, David Sykes spotted solar panels resting in a residential back yard.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Burned using Icy Hot, woman claims

    A Grove City woman has sued Chattem Inc. and Rite Aid of Pennsylvania Inc., alleging she suffered a second-degree chemical burn using one of Chattem’s Icy Hot pain relief products.

    April 21, 2014

  • Family outing Family friendly

    “We’re No. 5’’ isn’t a sports cheer you’ll hear any time soon.
    But considering the lumps the greater area has gotten over the years on economic rankings, it’s an outright victory.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • To demolish or not Tear it down? Fix it up?

    In 2007, Richard D. Givens bought a home at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage for $245,000.
    Today, the city of Hermitage is seeking the demolition of the now-vacant house, arguing the damage from water infiltration makes the structure not worth saving.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from April 19, 2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Man admits having child porn

    A Mercer man accused of soliciting and downloading photographs of nude teenage girls pleaded guilty April 8 to sexual abuse of children for possessing child pornography.

    April 19, 2014

  • Police getting new tool to fight crime

    Sharon police working at crime scenes will be putting a powerful new investigative tool to work as soon as next month.

    April 19, 2014