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Water contamination is concern in oil and gas drilling

Published: Wed, June 29, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.


The Vindicator ( Youngstown)

Atty. Christopher Baronzzi of the Youngstown law firm Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell urged those who have signed leases to test water before and after drilling begins to protect themselves in case well or surface water becomes contaminated from chemicals as a result of the process called fracking.


Christopher Baronzzi, an attorney for the Youngstown law firm Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, discusses legal issues for oil and gas lessors at a seminar in Columbiana. One of Tuesday’s topics was water safety and the how landowners should regularly test water for chemicals before and after drilling.


The Vindicator ( Youngstown)

About 250 residents from counties throughout Northeast Ohio learned about the many legal issues surrounding oil and gas leases, including mineral-rights purchases, the effect on property values and tax regulations.

By Karl Henkel



Water contamination seems to be the main opposition to oil and gas drilling throughout shale regions in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Many Mahoning Valley residents, specifically in Columbiana County, signed leases with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. in April. But until drilling picks up, landowners have been urged to take the necessary steps to ensure water remains safe to drink.

“You inevitably will have accidents or spills,” said Christopher Baronzzi, an attorney at the Youngstown law firm of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell Ltd., who spoke Tuesday to nearly 250 landowners at a seminar at Das Dutch Haus Village Inn on state Route 14. “If you have hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemicals spilled, there could be groundwater contamination.”

Baronzzi urged landowners who use wells for drinking water to seek comprehensive water tests before oil and gas companies begin drilling. Water from public utilities must meet National Primary Drinking Water Standards, but well water is a landowner’s responsibility.

He said the tests should look not only for bacteria but for chloride, sodium and other elements. For any potential legal action to be taken, the tests must be admissible in court.

“You need the evidence to prove the water quality,” Baronzzi said. “If you can’t use it in court, you might as well not even have it.”

Baronzzi said the tests aren’t just important to ensure water safety, but to protect the landowner if indeed water contamination occurs.

Baronzzi said the ideal situation would be for landowners to conduct several seasonal tests to establish a benchmark for water quality before drilling.

Landowners should use legitimate water-testing organizations including the Columbiana County Health Department’s Private Water Monitoring Program or the Mahoning County District Board of Health’s Laboratory Services Division, depending on jurisdiction, he said.

Tests at the Mahoning County location start at $107 for one that checks levels of chloride, sodium, sulfate and total dissolved solids. The most comprehensive test starts at $488.

It’s the spillage on the surface that could contaminate water more so than fracking — or hydraulic fracturing — which is the process of extracting oil and gas from underground reserves by pulverizing rock with pressurized water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet below the ground.

That aspect of shale drilling thus far has been deemed safe by Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She said in May the environmental risk of fracking may be overblown.

“I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing,” she said.

The EPA, however, is conducting a study on the potential adverse affects that fracking has on drinking water. A final report isn’t expected until 2014.

Water pollution has been heavily discussed in the Valley since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said it would not renew the city of Warren’s brine-water permit. The decision essentially halted the business endeavors of Patriot Water Treatment, which disposes of pre-treated water into the city’s wastewater system.


1timOthy(802 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Harrington , Hoppe & Mitchell a very informative seminar ! All three partners did and excellent job in informing the public and the (ALOV) group ! I came away with good vibrations ! Thank You much !

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2howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

For more info on the dangers of "Fracking" and its waste products
check out the following movies:
Split Estate
Fracking Hell -- the Untold Story
The first two are available online from Netflix & the last one is available online here for free: http://www.linktv.org/video/6258/frac...

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3pamdelli(3 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago


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4ytownsweet(2 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah. This sucks! Our city has bought the story from the big business folks hook, line and sinker. Our area is perfect for pulling one over on us. They will use us, pollute, make billions then leave. No one will ever be held accountable for anything.

Don't forget to test for Napthalene, Benzene and all the other 500+ chemicals used in fracking. These companies will deny EVERYTHING! When you can't even bathe at your own home a day after drilling starts near your well, no one will find any connection between drilling and the new state of your well.

Drilling companies push to circumvent the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Superfund and anything that makes them adhere to safe standards. They fight to make sure they do not have to disclose what chemicals they use in the process. The EPA isn't even allowed to do what the agency was created to do. Why?

Water moves... via groundwater, surface, air, back into Meander, our wells and eventually us.

Didn't we already go through this stuff many years ago? Isn't our water, air and soil finally almost okay? Why are we so willing to start it all over again for what seems to now be like 60-100 new jobs at V+M Star (after the temporary construction jobs have ended). Isn't it in the contracts that the workers cannot be in unions? Pay isn't that great compared to our grandparents' wages in the steel mills.

Is it a coincidence that the Mahoning Valley has the highest cancer rates in the country? Do you think it has anything to do with the glory days of steel making and pollution here?

We believe what they feed us with their huge pockets for advertising and lawyers. It's not our fault we aren't armed with knowledge when we have the day to day to worry about.

I would love to have an informative discussion/debate (a heavily promoted and advertised one) with representatives from both sides and even in the middle presenting us with cold, hard facts. You can't really argue with facts, and that's why we should have them at our disposal.

The sad thing is that we probably can't win, but the very least you can do is stop pretending this is a good thing.

If we concentrated on important issues like fracking instead of hassling bicycle riders on the YSU campus and signage for local businesses, we might be okay.

I love this city. Being used by greedy corporations does not make me very happy.

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Sell that car to the scrapyard, cut the electric line going to your house ,remove the furnace and shut off the gas . There is no need to promote well drilling by your opitional use of hydrocarbons . Since all wells are hydrofractured this is the only effective way to stop the drilling . If there is no demand for hydrocarbons drilling will cease .

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6Woody(480 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Fracking has been going on for 60 plus years.


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7ytownsweet(2 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Stan, Woody... good to see other points of view. Thanks for the link.

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8republicanRick(1672 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

ytownsweet sounds like a scared, neurotic liberal scared of her shadow. Progress comes with some side effects that must be dealt with. If you don't like it, go live with the Amish -- it sounds like you prefer their lifestyle.

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9Woody(480 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Another great article for the Wall Street Journal:


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10Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago


Very well said.Anyone who thinks big corporations give a crap about others are naive at best.History tells us that.

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11redvert(2226 comments)posted 4 years, 10 months ago

Christopher Baronzzi, an attorney at the Youngstown law firm of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell Ltd also stated after the seminar that if in fact anyone found their water quality degraded that his firm would represent them at no charge and would not accept any payment for their services.

Right after that I woke up laughing my a%% off when I realized it was just a dream.

Got to give them credit though, they have lined up a lot of potential clients and that is all the seminar was intended to do.

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