Planned injection wells raise concerns among residents
By Samantha Phillips
Dana Basse, a resident of the Wyngate Manor community, is among concerned Brookfield residents who oppose the two injection wells permitted to be drilled nearby and the three injection wells that have pending permits at the same site.
Highland Field Services, a subsidiary of Seneca Resources, applied for the injection-well permits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Basse, who has lived in the community for more than 50 years, said she is concerned about potential earthquakes.
“Our homes are built on concrete blocks,” Basse said. “My home will not survive an earthquake.”
What adds to her concern is there are abandoned mine shafts below parts of Brookfield, and she believes an earthquake could trigger a collapse.
A statement from Highland Services said its site is about 1.5 miles away from the nearest mine shaft, based on a map on the ODNR website, but well opponents worry tremors still could reach the mines.
ODNR said the two permitted Class II wells and three pending applications for wells must meet 18 construction conditions to ensure safety, including required seismic monitoring.
Class II injection wells are used to store wastewater from drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The wastewater is too toxic to be stored in landfills.
ODNR spokesman Steven Irwin said the state places more regulations on wells to prevent any leaks or mistakes from happening and to detect any risks for earthquakes.
Opponents of the wells are especially concerned because of the 4.0-magnitude earthquake that Youngstown experienced in 2011.
In a statement from Highland Services, spokesman Rob Boulware said the layer of rock the new injection wells will drill into is different from the layer that caused the earthquake in 2011. The Youngstown Northstar 1 well was drilled into a layer that contained a fault line, and now the ODNR prohibits Class II wells from drilling there.
Boulware said Brookfield Township was chosen because the geology fits Highland’s specifications and the state’s regulations, and the land was available.
The last day for public comment to ODNR is Monday, Christmas Day. Opponents of the proposed wells have sent a letter to ODNR requesting a 60-day extension.
Mike Brudzinski, professor of seismology at Miami University, said he understands why people are concerned but thinks the regulations on wells have improved enough to avoid big earthquakes since the incident in 2011.
“I would say that Ohio has pretty aggressive regulation to limit the potential of seismicity and make sure it is well monitored. They are requiring folks to do some seismic monitoring as they are implementing the well to make sure there is no recordable seismicity,” Brudzinski said.
“The state is trying to ensure that if these wells happen to be near an area with faults that could produce seismicity, they could detect that quickly and work with the operator to stop it,” he added.
Basse also is concerned truck traffic at the site will create noise and light disturbance and disturb access to and from the Wyngate Manor community.
Contamination is another concern for Basse and other opponents.
“There are chemicals that can cause cancer in the wastewater,” she said. “With hazardous waste, we don’t know the effects.”
Brudzinski said the purpose of injection wells is to dispose of wastewater far from any freshwater drinking sources.
“People think it causes more risk, but I think this process is to reduce contamination of drinking water,” he said.
Mistakes can still happen, and there can be spills, he said. “But again, there are regulations in place to try and mitigate that as much as possible,” he said.