'They just don’t care about the people around here, says Kleese neighbor
By Ed Runyan
A resident of Sodom Hutchings Road says the Kleese family’s unauthorized use of Trumbull County water shows its indifference to the safety of its neighbors.
Julie Barr, who lives just north of the Kleese Development Associates brine injection wells on Sodom Hutchings, said the homes of two Kleese family members are just north of her home.
One of the Kleeses, Matt, field-operations manager for Kleese Associates, also known as KDA, told county officials last week he extended county water from the KDA site and Kleese family farm at the corner of Warren-Sharon and Sodom Hutchings roads to his sister’s home and his home.
Those two homes are the sixth and seventh houses north of the KDA site. Barr’s home is the fifth one north of the KDA site. KDA was blamed for a spill of more than 2,000 gallons of “waste oil” earlier this month.
Barr said for Matt Kleese to run public water to his home and that of his sister without authorization suggests that he cares only about his own family’s health.
“To me, they just don’t care about the people around here,” she said. “They’re not protecting the people who live here, but they’re protecting themselves and their families.”
Trumbull County is giving the Kleese family 21 days to disconnect the county water. The family’s attorney, Robert Burkey, said last week that Kleese family members didn’t think the extension was improper at the time they did it, but the county said in a letter to Burkey that it was.
“If you don’t understand the basic rules on the water, then how can you run an injection well?” Barr said of the Kleeses.
Burkey said there is no connection between the Kleese injection wells, the oil spill and the waterline because the water was extended before the Kleese family got into the injection business in 2011. County officials say they have not been able to investigate the water extension yet and don’t know when it occurred.
None of the homes just north of KDA has county water except the two Kleese residences discovered last week because there is no water main running through that area, though county officials say it would be possible for one to be installed if the residents there paid for it.
Barr said she’s been testing her well water every day since the oil spill, even though the Trumbull County Health Department indicated her water is safe.
“I don’t believe that,” she said, describing her well water as sometimes black and sometimes brown when she boils it.
She and her husband have lived there about 17 years, and they have 11-year-old triplets. They have bought water in recent years for drinking but still use the well water for bathing.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-63rd, said he spoke Tuesday with Rick Simmers, oil and gas division chief at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and confirmed that the spill came from one or more brine holding tanks to the north of the KDA driveway.
O’Brien thinks a leaking liner also was involved, that the tank or tanks in question are underground and that the leak occurred within a week of March 30, when it was reported to state officials by a Sodom Hutchings resident who noticed dead wildlife and fish on his pond.
O’Brien said work continues at the KDA site to make repairs, and KDA has not reopened. He said testing has indicated no problem with radioactivity, and other tests of water wells and surface water have come back clean, but the testing will continue. ODNR continues to have representatives on site, he said.