By Ed Runyan
A dozen or so residents of the Westwood Lake Mobile Home Park in Weathersfield Township attended Wednesday’s Trumbull County commissioners meeting to air their concerns about a gas and oil well nearby.
Park residents and others have attended previous meetings while the Halcon Resources well on nearby Brunstetter Road in Lords-town was in the drilling phase, but they came back this week because of the “flaring” that has been going on the past week.
Flaring is the process of burning off natural gas from the well to test its pressure after the well has been hydraulically fractured.
A spokesman from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said earlier this week that flaring causes minimal environmental impact, but residents said the presence of the burning gas makes them wonder what chemicals are entering the air.
Park resident Colleen Wazelle said the headaches that started to bother her several months ago when the well was drilled have intensified since the flaring began. She also has asthma, and it’s been hard to breathe over the past week whenever she goes outside, she said.
The sound of the flaring, which is “like a siren, up and down and a lower-pitched sound,” also bothers her, she said, as do the vibrations, which sometimes seem to affect her balance.
Her husband, Floyd, who has diabetes, has had high-sugar readings since the first drilling-related work began several months ago — most likely because of the stress, Wazelle said.
Park resident Tom Ezzo said he woke up at 3 a.m. one morning to pictures on his wall and china in the cabinet rattling and the floor vibrating.
“Now, you can’t sleep when you hear that,” he said. “You wonder if the floor’s caving in.” Ezzo said his blood pressure has been elevated because of the sounds and vibrations from the well.
Park resident Sheldon Funk said the noise from the flaring has been “atrocious,” adding that some people have used devices to block the sound and help them sleep.
“If there had been a tornado warning siren, we would not have heard it,” Funk said, asking the commissioners if there is a way to limit the amount of noise coming from the well site, like with a noise ordinance.
Commissioner Frank Fuda suggested talking to Weathersfield Township officials about that, but Funk said Weathersfield officials referred him to the county commissioners.
The group applauded after the commissioners approved a resolution saying they would ask the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to monitor the air quality at all well sites in the county.
But residents expressed concern that the only information they would get would be whether the air met minimum standards.
Commissioner Paul Heltzel promised to ask for specific information about the chemicals identified in the air.
Mike Settles, Ohio EPA spokesman, said flaring isn’t usually a cause for concern because it involves natural gas, which is a “clean, combustible fuel.”
He said the Ohio EPA does general air-quality monitoring in Trumbull County, but he doesn’t think that monitoring would pick up any changes related to a well being flared.
The EPA does require well owners to monitor air quality for wells that are in the production phase. The EPA doesn’t do the testing. The current phase is considered the testing phase, he added.
Fuda said a Halcon spokesman told him the company notified local and state officials that it was going to start flaring, but the company was unable to tell what time of the day or night the flaring might begin. It turned out to be about 3 a.m. June 18.
The flaring is expected to continue for just a few more days, Settles said.
“We will do the best we can to reduce the impact on the neighbors,” a Halcon statement released this week said.
Fuda said the Brunstetter well has caused more concerns than ones in rural areas, such as Hayes- Orangeville Road in Hartford Township, because the Lordstown well is only a couple hundred yards from the nearest homes.