By Karl Henkel
One might think fracking in New York would not have an impact on Ohio.
But fracking wastewater could be headed Ohio’s way if New York moves forward with plans to allow horizontal drilling.
The New York state Legislature is discussing ways to dispose of the salty, chemical byproduct of fracking, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into shale rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
And like Pennsylvania, which has seven injection wells, New York has just six, which means injection wells are at a premium.
Ohio has 176 wells and already is known to some environmentalists as “Pennsylvania’s dumping ground” because more than half of all wastewater injected in Ohio — 8.7 million barrels, or enough to fill 558 Olympic-sized swimming pools during the first nine months of 2011 — came from the Keystone State.
A report detailing complete 2011 figures is pending.
“I guess most people feel it’s OK to be the dumping ground of the New England states,” said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th. “I don’t feel very comfortable with that.”
Ohio cannot keep out wastewater from other states because of interstate-commerce laws.
More wastewater also could mean more money for the state.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, pursuant to Senate Bill 165 passed in 2010, collects a 20-cents-per-barrel tax on injected brine from out of state and collected more than $1 million from January to September 2011.
That money likely will be targeted to hire more inspectors for oil and gas operations; ODNR has about 30 presently and has job postings for additional positions on its website.
The Ohio Oil & Gas Association did not comment on the possibility of more wastewater coming to Ohio.
Permits for new wells are on hold until the release of an ODNR report, which will detail whether a well in Youngstown triggered 12 earthquakes in the past year.
That report, according to ODNR, should be out “within weeks.”
A handful of other wells, drilled to deep depths, are stalled for the same reasons.
Aside from injection wells, wastewater can be recycled, quickly growing as another option.
Some processes include diluting the brine to reuse at other wells or filtering chemicals out of the liquid.
Ohio has allowed one specialized wastewater treatment plant — Patriot Water Treatment LLC — to accept flowback water for treatment. Patriot then disposes of the treated water in the City of Warren’s municipal treatment plant.