Less than a month after Ohio Department of Natural Resources representatives took the three-hour drive from Columbus to Coitsville, they were back in the Mahoning Valley on Tuesday.
This time they appeared in front of Hubbard Townhip trustees and approximately 50 township residents who had questions of ODNR regarding a proposed injection well slated to be constructed on Hubbard Masury Road near Interstate 80.
Injection wells, which often are drilled as deep as 9,000 feet below the ground, accept brine water from well drilling, including fracking, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock oil and natural gas.
The proposed site for the injection well is along the Little Yankee Run Creek, which eventually empties into the Shenango River.
Several communities in western Pennsylvania rely on the river for drinking water.
D&L Energy would drill the well, the same company that has done so in Coitsville. And like the ODNR meeting in Coitsville, a D&L Energy representative was not present to answer some questions specific to the Hubbard site.
The theme of Tuesday’s meeting was, “Is this the right site?”
“We have no say-so in the site they choose,” said ODNR geologist Tom Tomastik.
The site would consist of 20 holding tanks and a dyke that would be large enough to hold back 100 percent of the brine water from flowing into the creek if all tanks began to leak.
He said D&L Energy would drill 9,100 feet into the earth and inject brine water through pores in the rock formation. Tomastik said they will not know how many gallons the rock formation can take a day until the well is drilled and tested.
Residents also were concerned about the possible link between the wells and the recent uptick in earthquakes. The earthquakes’ epicenter has been in proximity to Youngstown’s D&L Energy well on the city’s West Side.
Heidi Hetzel-Evans, communications manager with the ODNR division of mineral resource management, said all tests ODNR performed by the site have found no link between the quakes and the injection well.
“We’ve even gone to outside sources to tell us if they see a link,” she said in reference to the seismographs Columbia University’s Lamon-Doherty Earth Observatory placed near the injection well. “So far they have found no link.”
Township Trustee Fred Hanley and Zoning Administrator John Pieton questioned the location of the well not only because of the natural resources surrounding it but because of its impact on businesses.
“I just don’t know why in the middle of this business district we need an injection well,” Pieton said to Tomastik. “What are the benefits locally?”
ODNR Department Chief Tom Tugend said the jobs created by the well would be “minimal.”
Hanley said the increased traffic the well would create by trucks waiting to unload brine water would “ruin the interchange” near I-80 and Hubbard Masury Road.
“I drove down to the injection well site [in Youngstown] and counted 17 trucks backed up waiting to be unloaded,” he said.
He encouraged residents to call their state representatives and tell them to change the law regarding local municipalities having no zoning control over the wells.
“We don’t have a voice,” said one resident who asked not to be named. “I’m listening to your adjectives and adverbs — shouldn’t, probably, might — but you don’t give us much confidence.”