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Nothing new here; move along

Published: Fri, September 28, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

It was brought to my attention by the Trumbull County Board of Health and a concerned-citizen group that Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued four drilling permits in Mahoning County.

These permits caught my interest because they were located within the Meander Reservoir watershed. Each of these permits relate to the same drilling site. ODNR expects to see four to six wells placed in the same drilling pad. Each of these wells may be used to drill in separate horizontal directions, thus reaching more of the shale play from a single well pad.

What was interesting about this new horizontal-drilling permit was that it was located within an area previously designated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as a Source Water Assessment Protection Program (SWAP) area.

All things considered, there are hundreds of wells in this zone. The new permits, however, caused me to research the precautions that are taken to protect the Meander Reservoir from accidents as a result of drilling for oil and natural gas.

What I discovered is that drilling is just one of the many potential risks to our water supply and that a plan is in place to monitor and prevent these risks from affecting our health.

The Meander Reservoir provides potable water to more than 200,000 residents.

The reservoir is the sole water-source provider to the cities of Niles, Youngstown and McDonald. The reservoir is managed by Meander Water, which is a quasi-government body composed of representatives of each of those cities. These three communities, in turn, sell water to other water districts throughout the Mahoning Valley.

For example, Niles, Girard and McDonald sell bulk water to Girard. Girard, in turn, sells water to Liberty Township.

A multijurisdictional plan, named “Drinking Water Source Assessment for the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District” was conceived in 2005 and first published in 2006. The plan was then updated and re-published by the Ohio EPA in 2009. There are many government bodies working in conjunction to ensure the integrity and execution of this plan.

The plan creates three levels of protection, each related to the proximity of threats to the water intake mechanism. The zones are named Emergency Management Zone (EMZ), Corridor Management Zone (CMZ) and the Drinking Water Source Protection Area. The EMZ is an area in the immediate vicinity of the surface water intake in which the public-water-system operator has little or no time to respond to a spill.

The CMZ is the area within 1,000 feet of each bank of the reservoir. It starts from the intake and extends to a point about four miles upstream, a distance of approximately 10 miles. The CMZ also includes tributaries of the reservoir. On tributaries, the width of the CMZ is 500 feet from each bank. The length on a tributary is 10 stream miles from the intake. The SWAP is the drainage area upstream of the point where the water is withdrawn from a surface source such as a stream, lake or reservoir.

The protection area for the reservoir is fan-shaped and encompasses 86.5 square miles. Our recently permitted well, known as the “Cadle” well, is in the SWAP zone.

As of 2009, there were already 189 wells located in the CMZ alone.

There are many more in the SWAP zone. In terms of potential threats to our water supply, drilling is prioritized as 8 of 9. For this reason, I tell those concerned about this new well in Mahoning County, “Nothing new here! Move along.”


1GeorgeinYoungstown(76 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Plenty New Here; Sit & Relax

If you consider the contemporary Hydraulic Fracturing process as "nothing new", then, sure, there's nothing new here, so you should "move along."

However, if you actually wish to address only the facts, maybe you should stick around and read what the unidentified writer didn't tell you.

Today's fracking isn't your grandmother's old-school vertical well, and the writer knows this.

Another way to put it is that today's fracking wells = the old wells on steroids. Instead of an average of 500,000 gallons of water + 25-50,000 gallons of toxic chemicals (5-10%) used to "stimulate" a well, today's horizontally fractured wells require 10 times as much, or, 5-10 million gallons of water + 250-500,000 gallons of toxic chemicals - not to mention the tons of sand required to keep the cracks in the fractured shale open.

It's essentially the difference between smoking _ONE_ cigarette a WEEK, vs. _ONE PACK_ a DAY.

The unidentified writer is correct to point out that each individual pad can drill many horizontal wells, so one pad drilling 5 wells could potentially use up to 5 times the numbers I just mentioned - unlike our writer, an 8 yr old could tell us that much.

The unidentified author, of course, knows this, but intentionally refuses to inform the reader of these uncomfortable facts.

Also, the writer fails to inform the reader that there exists no technology today that can prevent the leakage and migration of this toxic brew of water and chemicals (called "flowback") from returning back up the well bore hole, within the gap between the outer surface of the cement well casing, and the earth surrounding it, potentially contaminating any fresh water in the vicinity, including drinking water wells, aquifers, and - yes - even large reservoirs used to supply potable water for 10s of thousands of citizens.

If this is all perfectly comforting to the writer - especially given the proximity to the fresh water source of upwards of 1/4 of a million people - then the credibility of the writer can be easily questioned.

Remember, what does the public have to gain from opposing fracking other than our health and safety?

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2GeorgeinYoungstown(76 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Regarding my previous comment, I am now aware that the writer is the blog host.

Apologies for the confusion...

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3GeorgeinYoungstown(76 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Also, the "Drinking Water Consumer Confidence Report for 2012" - the document that comes with our water bill once a year - lists gas well drilling as a potential source of contamination of the Meander Creek Reservoir.

There is no indication in this document that gas drilling is an 8 or 9 threat/risk on a scale of 1 - 10.

Could you please provide a link that would support this claim?

thank you.

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