Concerns over drilling for natural gas under Mill Creek Park brought about 15 neighbors to a park board meeting, but commissioners headed them off at the door.
The meeting, park board commissioners Bob Durick and Jay Macejko told the crowd who gathered in the rain outside Birch Hill Cabin on McCollum Road, would be closed to the public. The board can close a meeting, according to state law, while discussing personnel or legal matters.
There would be no discussion about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, under the park, commissioners said.
Park neighbors and members of a group called Guardians of Mill Creek Park showed the commissioners a notice they’d received that says Chesapeake Appalachia LLC has a contractor doing predrilling water testing in preparation for fracking in the park. The notice also says three shallow wells on abandoned Idora Park property have been “unitized and pooled” by a number of gas companies who will use fracking, a controversial drilling technique that involves vertical drilling several thousand feet down, then horizontal drilling as far as a mile away into the Utica Shale. After the drilling, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are forced into the shale at high pressure to crack it, which makes the gas easier to extract.
Activists and environmentalists have said fracking fluid contains toxins that pose a threat to ground water if cement and steel well casings are faulty or fail. Wells have also contaminated surface water after blowouts and leaks, and people living near them have complained of air pollution.
Durick said the notice was written by someone who had no knowledge of what was really going to happen at the meeting.
“I don’t know anything about this,” he said when he was asked if the information in the notice is true.
Neighbors said they are frustrated because the don’t believe they are getting enough information from the park board.
“We’re concerned,” said Liz Khumprakob. “We live in the area and we want answers.”
“It’s a lot of frustration, ‘cause you don’t get straight answers,” said Sherri Martz.
“What’s horrifying to all of us here is, we’re expendable,” said Diana Shaheen.
The next regular meeting of the park commissioners is 6 p.m. Monday at the MetroParks Farm, McMahon Hall, state Route 46, Canfield.