NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio
Officials overseeing reservoirs in Ohio’s largest contained watershed have decided to halt water sales to oil and gas drillers in response to environmental concerns as they await a water-availability study.
Environmentalists and other members of the public have raised concerns about the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District’s selling water to drillers for use in hydraulic fracturing, which injects millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into the earth at high pressure to free gas. Environmental groups have said they fear that drawing the water from reservoirs could leave insufficient water supplies for the public and wildlife.
Conservancy district executive director John Hoopingarner said it’s in the public’s interest to stop the sales until the district receives an independent water-availability study and updates its water-supply policy.
“We want to fully understand the concerns of interested groups and the public and ensure that each step in the process is transparent and open for public review,” Hoopingarner said in a release Thursday.
The conservancy district said the moratorium on new sales will not affect a previously approved sale of up to 11 million gallons from Clendening Reservoir in Harrison County to Oklahoma-based Gulfport Energy Co. The Clendening reservoir typically contains about 8.6 billion gallons of water.
The Ohio Environmental Council, the Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water and the Buckeye Forest Council praised the district’s decision to stop sales for now.
Melanie Houston, director of water policy and environmental health for the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a release that the public has raised valid concerns, and there is “much scientific information and public opinion to be gathered.”
But Cadiz officials are disappointed with the district’s decision, The Times-Reporter in New Philadelphia reported.
“Their inaction will cause an increase in truck traffic, random withdrawals of water from creeks and streams in the watershed and will slow down the pace of oil and gas development because of the difficulty in finding water,” Rich Milleson, economic development director for the Cadiz Community Improvement Corp., told the newspaper.