By Ed Runyan
Several hundred people in the Mathews High School cafeteria Monday night heard that well water and groundwater close to an oily spill near the Kleese Development brine- injection facility on Sodom Hutchings Road is probably safe.
But water within a half-mile of the spill was being tested Monday and rushed to a Columbus lab.
A preliminary lab result will be available this afternoon to indicate whether certain dangerous compounds have been detected, said Kurt Kollar, on-scene coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Some in the crowd became animated in describing their fears relating to the Kleese site. They were advised they could pick up free bottled water at the Vienna Fire Station and take other precautions relating to bathing if they want, but it’s too soon to know whether there is any danger to their well water.
“Right now we can’t tell you it’s safe or not safe, so use bottled water and take a cooler and shorter bath,” said Frank Migliozzi, environmental director for the Trumbull County Health Department.
The Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Natural Resources responded Thursday to a Sodom Hutchings Road resident’s phone call and began cleaning up the spill of an estimated 2,000 gallons of “waste oil” from the Kleese site.
Kollar, who also investigated dumping of brine into sewers at Ben Lupo’s Northstar injection site in Youngstown, said about 99 percent of the surface-water contamination in Vienna has been sucked up with vacuum tanks, and other cleanup work is being done. All of the costs will be paid by Kleese, also known as KDL.
The final step may be to remove a thin layer of surface vegetation in the damaged wetlands, a “veneer scrape,” to help Mother Nature restore herself, Kollar said.
As for the length of time it will take to complete the cleanup, he said it could be “months, weeks, I don’t know.” Kleese’s injection operation was shut down Friday by the Ohio EPA as a result of the spill.
Kollar said investigators still don’t know the “exact source” of the oil, but it appears to have come out of a “buried storm drain emanating from the [Kleese] property.”
He said the EPA continues checking the “tank farm,” where brine-injection fluid is stored before it is injected underground and also the area where tanker trucks are unloaded. He said workers are digging into the ground to reach more conclusions.
Tom Hill, regional supervisor for the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, said Kleese will not be injecting any additional oilfield waste into the ground “until we find the problem and it’s remediated.”
He said ODNR has ruled out the injection wells themselves as the source of the oil, and the company was not exceeding its allowed injection pressures.
But when residents asked whether it was safe for their children to bathe in their well water, Hill said he could not answer that until the water test results come back later today.
Many in the crowd did not like that answer, and some shouted at him, Kollar and state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-63rd. One man said loudly, “Why do we have to take all this crap? How can we stop it?”
Another man asked: “How did our community become the dumping ground for brine?”
Resident Julie Barr turned from the Vienna Township trustees who called the meeting and the other officials in the front of the room and said, “Who’s going to be responsible for the value of my house?”