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Lease will protect Valley landowners from water contamination

Published: Thu, December 29, 2011 @ 12:30 a.m.


Karen Stangl checks for the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria in water at the Mahoning County Health Department. The department can test water for contamination related to oil- and natural-gas drilling.

By Karl Henkel


Fourth of a 5-part series.


Water quality is a top concern to all landowners, especially those with water wells near oil- and natural-gas drilling operations.

  Fracking Chemicals

Attorney Chris Baronzzi of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell discusses fracking chemicals as it relates to water testing and industry disclosure practices.

Attorney Chris Baronzzi of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell discusses fracking chemicals as it relates to water testing and industry disclosure practices.

But the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley and its attorneys have developed a lease that will help protect the water of thousands of residents throughout the Mahoning Valley.

The lease requires drillers to test water — and replace water if any contamination happens after drilling begins.

ALOV is a nonprofit coalition of landowners that has leased more than 100,000 acres of Ohio land with oil and gas drillers.

The lease calls for drilling companies to test a landowner’s water before and after drilling. The driller pays for all testing costs and must share the results with the landowner.

The ALOV lease stipulates that a drilling company must clean up, remove, remedy and repair any water (or ground) contamination, regardless of whether it was caused by the driller.

But how can a drilling company “replace” water?

For Western Reserve Local Schools, the company will ship in bottled water and set up fresh-water storage if any school water source becomes contaminated.

It negotiated exclusively with Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. and is part of a growing number of landowners demanding water-quality testing in lease agreements.

But for landowners who have already signed oil and gas leases without a water-quality stipulation, not all is lost.

Christopher Baronzzi, an attorney with the Youngstown law firm Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, said all landowners — including those with water-protection clauses in leases — should conduct baseline-water tests before any drilling activity.

“It’s probably preferable to wait until you get a notice or some kind of information from the company or from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that alerts you that there’s going to be a well or some sort of drilling activity on your property,” Baronzzi said.

It is at that point Baronzzi advises a landowner to test for both water quality and flow rate using water-testing companies or organizations.

Tests at the Mahoning County District Board of Health start at $107 and checks for presence of chloride, sodium, sulfate and total dissolved solids — some of the chemicals used in fracking.

Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.

There are two other testing levels:

Tier 2, at a cost of $208, tests for substances in Tier 1 plus substances’ alkalinity, bromide, calcium and total suspended solids.

Tier 3, at a cost of $396, tests for substances in Tiers 1 and 2 plus substances such as benzene, ethyl benzene and methane.

Janine Soubra, laboratory technician, said any of the three will be sufficient, but the district recommends Tier 3.

“That’s what’s recommended by the state,” she added.

It is also recommended that a sanitarian and neutral third party test water, not a landowner.

“If they want it to hold up in the court of law, it’s better they not take the samples themselves,” Soubra said.


1webad(156 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

In all likelihood, the lease wording tactic will fail.

Under the Bush/Cheney regime, Dick Cheney had hydrofracturing protections removed from the Safe Drinking Water Act for the benefit of Halliburton Inc. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer regulates the injection of fracturing fluids under the Act.

The drilling companies will contaminate the drinking water (as well as other streams and creeks) in spite of any added lease clauses. Then the owning corporations will make the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley sue them in lengthy expensive court battles.

I feel bad about what's happening in my old hometown. I'm sad about the consequences that await my friends and family, and about the ruination of the creeks and lakes I love. Of what benefit are temporary jobs and lease money when people, both adults and children, 'will die' from pollution generated cancers and suffer greatly from neurotoxicity.

PBS interviews filmmaker Josh Fox about "Gasland".

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2gingerspice(130 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This past episode of "CSI" was about "fracking" and although a tv show, it made me say"HMM???". Of course the health department recommends "Tier 3" testing. Look at the cost! "Fracking" is the modern day "gold rush".But "everything that glitters ain't gold".

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3ECK(1 comment)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is shallow thinking. Check out the Y Business Journal on the "Shell Game". The corporate entity is going to protect itself from future harm. The damage to the water table from injecting high pressure poison into the shale could happen well into the future. It is not if it is going to leach out, it is when and where. Unlike human beings corporate structures can easily transform or dissolve and transfer the assets to a new entity. When keeping a company alive cost too much... (such as a enviromental liability), ... dissolve it. Like most enviromental problems, fracking will eventually become the problem of the citizens and landowners long after the CEO and shareholder took their profits to a Grand Cayman tax shelter.

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4CongressWatcher(218 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Cool. I am working on the Mahoning Valley version of GasLand now. It should be a very interesting topic as time marches on in the valley....

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5southsidedave(5126 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

@ rjbrook -

The gas drilling companies have a lot of money, and they will keep it...they don't care about replacing anything

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6jtamarkin(37 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

In a long list of Valley memories...Brier Hill in the 1960's: "Mommy, it's raining orange and it stinks." And Mom said something like: "Those are jobs, lots of jobs." Did Sheet & Tube, Republic and certain other "people" (corporations) care? (Actually, most of them cared...about golf courses, martinis, sex and money, things, themselves.) Bottom line now...under current fracking laws (oops, there aren't any fracking laws)...do CHK and HAL and certain other "people" care? HAL yes, they care...about maintaining the "HAL loophole" and golf, Crown Royal, monstrous homes and salaries, stock prices, an inept and powerless EPA, sex and things, themselves.

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7VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The headline to this article is false.

This lease does not protect landowners from water contanimation...it states that the oil and gas drilling companies shall test landowner water and replace any contanimated water they find. For how long? And who pays the bills 10 years from now? Or 20 years from now, when the gas companies will be long gone.

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8southbelle22(16 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

what a joke! the only thing that can protect us is not putting the poison there in the first place. the air and water does'nt know where the property line is. the gas companies don't give a neighbor to a drilling operation any notice at all. so many landowners who sign don't even live on the property! why doesn't anyone talk about the rights of the innocent who are losing everything over this and who never signed a lease. all i hear these lawyers talk about is lease-signer rights. where are you supposed to come up with this kind of money for water testing at the drop of a hat when you are on a fixed income? and then lawyers when your water becomes contaminated - and it will, no ifs. pitting neighbor against neighbor, polluting us to death, and leaving the mess for the local governments to clean up and no money to do it- this will be the worst economic/health disaster of our time, our children's time, their children's time. get ready. prepare for the storm.

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9Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

BS ! The fox loves to guard the hen house.

Man they think folks here are gullible.

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