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Published: Fri, March 16, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.


A brine-injection well owned by D&L Energy Inc. in Youngstown halted operations after a series of small earthquakes.


By Karl Henkel



A year ago Saturday marks the anniversary of the quakes that gave us the shakes.

The two low-magnitude earthquakes — felt by few but discussed by many — in the early morning of March 17, 2011, quickly became a conversation point at coffee shops, grocery stores and throughout the Mahoning Valley.

For the better part of the past year, residents have received a geology education on how and why so many concentrated seismic events could happen in an otherwise calm area of Ohio.

Ultimately, the story became less about the earthquakes and more about the industry.

We learned the difference between fracking, the process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into shale rocks thousands of feet below the ground to release natural gas and oil, and injection wells, which dispose of the chemical-laced wastewater from fracking.

“We know a lot more about the dangers, and we know a lot less about what they’re doing about it,” said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, an outspoken advocate for safe-fracking practices. “There’s a lot of information that we’ve gotten, but a lot of questions still remain unanswered.”

We learned that most fracking wastewater originates from outside Ohio, and aside from a complete ban on injection wells, interstate commerce laws prohibit Ohio from turning away brine from states such as Pennsylvania.

We also learned about different kinds of brine, all of which consist of different makeups and are of different weights, regardless of the state’s broad definition.

We learned the Ohio Department of Natural Resources was slow to react to the cause of the earthquakes.

ODNR did not start gathering the relevant information — depths, precise locations, etc. — until after James Zehringer took over as director Nov. 15.

It was then ODNR sought out Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York to help it pinpoint exactly where the earthquakes happened beneath our feet.

Eventually, the science and data caught up, solidifying the correlation.

We learned that a burgeoning industry spawned the super well of all super wells: the deepest, highest-pressure brine-injection well in the Buckeye State (based on local geologic makeup).

We learned that all injection wells are not created equal, and that in most instances, they are the preferred method of wastewater disposal.

We learned about D&L Energy Inc., a longtime Youngstown-based company of about 100 employees, which insisted its well did not trigger the now 13 temblors.

“While it’s been a year, it’s really been a matter of a few months where it’s been apparent that there needs to be more study,” said Vince Bevacqua, spokesman for D&L. “We’re prepared to keep working with ODNR.”

We learned about D&L’s past including its violations, which consisted of minor administrative breakdowns and a variety of water and soil contamination incidents, including one at a nearly completed site on U.S. Route 422 in Coitsville.

We also learned D&L planned wells not just in Coitsville but also Girard, Hubbard, Campbell and North Lima.

We added “Precambrian formation” to our vernacular and treated it like a phrase we learned back in middle school. The Precambrian — a nearly impermeable rock formation — was the crux of the injection well-earthquake correlation.

D&L had drilled a well too deep into an unforgiving underground formation, which led us to a lesson in fault lines.

We learned we were not alone.

Arkansas experienced more than 1,000 earthquakes because of injection wells, and Ohio had a similar issue in Ashtabula.

We learned injection wells could go anywhere, at any time, without any knowledge from local officials.

That is, unless they read The Vindicator’s legal ads on a daily basis.

But even if they do, they have no choice.

Injection wells, like oil- and gas-extraction wells, are regulated by the state and the state only.

Local governments — such as Youngstown, which voted to ban injection wells within city limits — are powerless.

We learned a lot, but that doesn’t mean we’re not still shaking.


1ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Juanita, it is so sad that you have decided to turn off your brain and instead start parroting the fearmongering. You obviously are so ill informed that you do not know the difference between gasoline and natural gas. You know so little about what is going on that you think someone is going to take your land from you.

Don't BS me and say that money has not been an important part of your life. You and others claim that money and profit are bad, but over your entire working career your goal was to earn money and to have a profit left over at the end of the month. The profit motive is what brought you everything that you hold dear, try to remember that.

Educate yourself, learn the facts and maybe not live out the rest of your days in unfounded fear. This gas discovery is the key to Youngstown becoming prosperous once again.

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2Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

juanita1944 - -You make too much sense. When the wells are poisoned maybe they will just say the loophole chemicals are just a part of nature -too bad .

We had jobs that were intentionally shipped overseas. Now we get drilling with chemicals and millions of gallons of wasted water shipped in from other states so gas can be shipped to China. What a joke.

Sorry many folks in the area lack critical thinking skills and they salivate at the notion of jobs without ever questioning who will be hired , how many and from where let alone what the processes of shale drilling and waste disposal will do to us long term and short term.

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3ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Yes Bigben, jobs, money, high standards of living and prosperity are all jokes. Who needs any of that when we can just wallow in self pity for what, three decades now. You would never have liked the steel mills, which existed by digging rock out of the ground (shipped in from other states), made into steel and shipped to overseas countries. How horrible!

But you don't know much about what is going on either. You don't know that it is unlikely that much gas will be exported due to the difficulty in doing so, and you don't know that it is wet gas that is wanted and that wet gas can be converted into chemicals, plastics and many of the other materials we need in the US.

I'm getting tired of ignorant people spouting off without at least doing some freaking basic research into what they are talking about.

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