By Ed Runyan
A spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency says the brine spill that occurred Saturday on Warner Road and state Route 305 in Fowler Township “is not a big deal as spills go.”
But Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith and his top assistant say they are concerned because of the potential damage the brownish liquid might have done to a county road.
Smith and Don Barzak, Smith’s director of governmental affairs, say they saw the spill not long after it happened Saturday and say they wonder what was in the liquid because its color suggested something other than just salt.
Smith said he called a phone number for the Trumbull County HazMat team and left a message, then called the county 911 to report the problem.
The county 911 notified the Ohio Department of Transportation in Akron, which sent a maintenance person to state Route 305 to put sand on the spill.
The EPA said later it should have been notified on Saturday because by the time it learned of it on Monday, it was difficult to properly assess the spill.
Early this week, an EPA official told a local newspaper reporter that the spill dropped about 25 gallons on the road, but Smith says he believes the amount was most likely more than 1,000 gallons.
Smith says he saw the trail of liquid on Warner Road about a quarter mile north of Route 305 on Saturday morning, then followed it five miles west on Route 305 to state Route 11.
Mike Settles, an EPA spokesman, said Thursday its not known how much brine was dropped — maybe 100 to 150 gallons, maybe more. Brine is a salty, chemical byproduct of natural-gas and oil drilling.
An EPA inspector spoke with the owner of Annarock Petroleum of Cortland, which runs a brine-injection well at the location where the spill began, and he said the brine came from a tank being removed on Saturday from the injection-well site.
Energy Services Corp. of New Concord, Ohio, was removing a 500-barrel tank from the injection site that was being used as part of testing related to the possible sale of the injection well, Settles said.
The tank leaked as it was being hauled away, Settles said, and the EPA didn’t levy any fines for the spill.
The inspector did a test on the liquid and found that its pH level to be 6.5, which is in the “neutral” range, meaning it isn’t high in acid or alkaline, “which mean’s we’re not overly concerned about it,” Settles said.
Rocco Maiorca, owner of Annarock, said a street sweeper removed staining from the roadway earlier this week. Settles said the work was “for cosmetic reasons.”
Barzak, meanwhile, said the spill looks more like something that would happen if a brine hauler got to the site with a load of brine and was unable to unload it.
It looks like what you would see if a hauler opened the valve on his brine tank and let it run out as he drove away, Barzak said.
The gate on the injection well was padlocked on Thursday afternoon, and no one appeared to be inside the fenced area of the injection well.
Maiorca said “I doubt that very much” when asked whether Barzak’s explanation was likely, saying a truck hauling brine would normally have about 4,000 gallons in it, and that much brine would kill a lot of grass.
Maiorca said the brownish color is most likely the result of rust that was at the bottom of the tank.
The tank leaked because there is an a slight hill on Warner Road from the injection well to state Route 305. He said he didn’t think the spill extended onto Route 305.
Smith said this week that he left a voicemail about the spill for Don Waldron, chief of the Trumbull County Hazardous Materials team, and also called Trumbull County 911, which referred the matter to the Ohio Department of Transportation office in Akron.
Waldron said Thursday he didn’t receive any message from Smith, and nobody from the county 911 notified him about the spill.
Waldron has moved his offices from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to a former Bazetta Township fire station on McCleary-Jacoby Road and said the agency doesn’t have a published phone number anymore.
The county 911 and other agencies know how to reach him in minutes when there’s an emergency, he said.
Settles said anyone wishing to report a spill in the future can call the Ohio EPA at 1-800-282-9378.