State officials close down Weathersfield injection wells because of possible earthquake link


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WEATHERSFIELD

For the third time since the beginning of 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has ordered the shutdown of wells associated with gas and oil in the Youngstown-Warren area, this time closing the American Water Management Services injection wells just north of Niles.

Late Friday, ODNR issued a press release saying AWMS had cooperated with its order to shut down its two brine injection wells on state Route 169 after a 2.1- magnitude earthquake Sunday evening.

ODNR issued the closure order Wednesday for the wells, saying seismic-monitoring equipment in place near the injection wells allowed ODNR “to determine that possible evidence exists linking the [AWMS] injection operation to a recent 2.1 seismic event.”

ODNR added that the earthquake was “a relatively minor event,” but ODNR was shutting down the injection wells “out of an abundance of caution ... while a full investigation takes place.”

The statement added, “We will continue to evaluate all the data to determine what exactly happened and will share more information as it is available,” the ODNR statement said.

The earthquake was at 5:34 p.m. and had an epicenter on the AWMS property, though initial reports from the U.S. Geological Survey located the epicenter about a mile northwest of there. Additional data allowed the USGS to better locate the epicenter by Tuesday, a USGS geophysicist told The Vindicator.

Bethany McCorkle, ODNR spokeswoman, said the closure order was issued Wednesday, though ODNR did not release that information until two days later.

Ron Klingle, president of the wells’ parent company, Avalon Holdings, said Wednesday afternoon he was hoping ODNR would not use the earthquake as a reason to shut down his operation.

He said the earthquakes that have occurred in the Youngstown-Warren area since early 2011 have done almost no damage, and injection wells such as his are necessary to keep oil and gas drilling viable here.

He said he’s heard that possibly one person noticed Sunday’s 2.1-magnitude quake. The public is aware of Sunday’s quake only because so many seismometers were placed here as a result of earthquakes associated with brine injection at the Northstar well in Youngstown in 2011 and a hydraulic-fracturing well in Poland Township earlier this year.

ODNR shut down both of those operations, and they remain closed.

Changes in Ohio law that followed the Northstar earthquakes required seismic monitors to be installed near certain injection wells before commercial injection began and to remain there for 12 months afterward.

Commercial injection began at the AWMS Weathersfield well in March.

The Northstar 1 well on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown closed after a 4.0 earthquake on New Year’s Eve 2011 rattled the city and nearby communities after months of speculation about whether the injection well was responsible for about a dozen smaller earthquakes throughout 2011.

In April, a team of ODNR regulators and geologists identified hydraulic fracturing as a “probable trigger” for a series of earthquakes that hit Poland Township near a Hilcorp Energy Co. fracking operation at the Carbon Limestone Landfill.

Klingle did not return a message Friday night seeking comment on the closure of his injection wells.

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