By Karl Henkel
Township residents this week had a chance to grill an Ohio Department of Natural Resources geologist about environmental concerns surrounding a new brine injection well.
Tom Tomastik, ODNR geologist, told residents there have been no subsurface water-contamination problems since the department took primary responsibility for regulating injection wells in 1983.
But the surface is a different story.
Coincidentally or not, on the same day residents questioned Tomastik, standing drilling mud could be seen on the ground at the D&L Energy Inc. injection-well site on U.S. Route 422 next to The Purple Cat in Coitsville.
“One of the trucks overflowed one of the drilling-mud tanks,” Tomastik explained to The Vindicator. “It spilled out on the ground and into a ditch.”
Drilling-mud tanks act as reservoirs for liquid used during the drilling process.
A concerned resident snapped a photo of the standing liquid; D&L had the liquid cleaned up in less than an hour.
Tomastik said he was limited in the information he received. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was first notified; however, it does not regulate injection wells.
A state regulator scheduled to follow up at the site did not respond to a request for comments.
D&L is currently in the process of drilling the well, which will then accept brine wastewater, a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural oil and gas.
To aid the drilling process, a drilling mud is used to help keep the drill bit clean and regulate its temperature.
One type of drilling mud is freshwater-based, often used in injection-well drilling, which consists of sodium bentonite — an environmentally safe natural sealant, among other soluble and insoluble solid content. Tomastik said that mud likely would need to be disposed of in a brine injection well.
Ben Lupo, president of D&L, said he didn’t know all the details of the incident but assured residents it was taken care of in a timely and efficient manner.
“If there was a spill, the guy that was there would have called the response team,” he said.
Tomastik said the spill likely was the result of “human error,” but that’s exactly what has heightened residents’ fears.
Sahara Grillis, a Coitsville resident, is one who is concerned.
“A lot of us have well water,” she said.