By Ed Runyan
As horizontal gas and oil wells using hydraulic fracturing begin to populate Trumbull County, a McDonald man asked the Trumbull County commissioners Wednesday whether firefighters are ready for the first accident that results in a need for evacuation.
Specifically, John Williams, a member of Frackfree Mahoning Valley and Frack Free Ohio, said he’s concerned about what would happen if the Kibler well off Brunstetter Road in Lordstown had an accident that required evacuation of residents in the nearby Westwood Lake Mobile Home Park.
The park is about 350 feet from the well, Williams said, and has about 800 residents. “If there’s a blowout, where do people go?” Williams asked.
Ernie Cook, director of the Trumbull County 911 center and a member of the board of the Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency, said a decision on how to handle that type of accident would be in the hands of the fire chief in the community involved.
The Emergency Management Agency would be available to provide any assistance the fire chief requested, Cook said.
“We have a plan for terrorism and a plan for tornadoes, but what about wells?” Williams asked.
Linda Beil, EMA director, said a horizontal gas-well accident would be handled under the countywide Emergency Operation Plan, which has a specific section on handling gas and oil wells.
“It’s our basic plan that the fire chief in charge ... would decide on an evacuation route,” Beil said, adding that specific evacuation routes cannot be predetermined because circumstances change.
The only other section of the plan specific to a certain kind of emergency is terrorism, Beil said. There is no specific plan for tornadoes.
It’s nearly time for a revision of the plan, but Beil said she doesn’t envision there being a need for major revisions based on the arrival of horizontal wells in the past few months.
In the event of an accident that required an evacuation, the incident commander from the community involved would contact Beil, and she’d contact the American Red Cross to arrange for shelter.
The Trumbull County Fire Chiefs Association met last week with officials from BP America, which plans to drill about 10 wells in the county this year. BP has its own emer-gency-response crews available and has offered to provide training to Trumbull County firefighters for oil and gas emergencies, Beil said.
“I don’t have any concerns, but any training we can get I’d like to take them up on it,” Beil said. One of the challenges is that many of the fire departments in the areas where most of the wells are being drilled are part-time and not readily available for training.
Don Barzak, director of governmental affairs for Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, said the wells that have been drilled so far are in Hartford Township and Lordstown.
Other well pads are under construction — all by BP — are on state Route 305 just west of state Route 7 in Hartford Township, state Route 193 just north of the Fowler Township line in Johnstown Township, and Ridge Road just south of state Route 87 in Gustavus Township.
Though Halcon Resources said in late January that the wells it drilled in Hartford and Lordstown would be vertical wells only for testing purposes, Halcon changed course after that and went ahead with horizontal drilling at both locations.
Halcon is required to report production results to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources from those wells in a couple of months, so that will be the first indication of the amount of oil and gas produced from them, he said.
Meanwhile, a company working for BP has indicated its plans to install 90 miles of pipelines in Trumbull County this year, Barzak said. The company has submitted a preliminary road-use and maintenance agreement for the pipeline installation, and the county is reviewing it.