By Ed Runyan
William Sawtelle said he’s starting to become concerned about two injection wells proposed by Highland Field Services of Pittsburgh for property near his home on Merwin Chase Road.
Sawtelle said people came to his house Thursday to test his well water in preparation for drilling a well. When he asked a few questions, he learned they were talking about an injection well, which injects the wastewater from oil and gas drilling thousands of feet underground for disposal.
His home, about 1 mile northwest of Brookfield Center, uses well water, which causes Sawtelle the greatest concern over potential dangers of an injection well coming to the open fields behind him.
Sawtelle said he takes medication because of a heart attack and worries about a spill at the Highland facility – such as one discovered at a Kleese Development injection facility in Vienna in April 2015 – that might take a while for him to learn about.
“A person could be potentially harmed until they find out,” Sawtelle said.
He’s also concerned about noise from the truck traffic and changes to the “nice, quiet country neighborhood” where he lives.
“If I wanted to live next to a freeway, I would have located next to a freeway,” he said. “We have deer, turkey. This used to be a popular place for hunting. That’s all going to go away,” he said.
Walter Wolanin of Warren-Sharon Road to the south of the proposed site said he has concerns about injection wells because many township residents draw their drinking water from wells on their property.
He assumes the township will address the issue with a meeting, he said.
“I put a lot of trust and belief in the trustees,” he said. “I look to them for the safety of our community.
“It’s something where we’d have to sit down with the neighbors and discuss the pros and cons,” he said. “We all need to be in favor of something that is going to go into Brookfield.”
But Brookfield Trustee Ron Haun said injection wells turn things upside down where trustees and their constituents are concerned.
“There’s no stopping it on our end,” Haun said. “As public officials, we are powerless and our county commissioners are powerless.”
Haun said the only way he knows to address injection wells is to go after state legislators, who do have control over laws that govern them.
“If you want this changed, and if you don’t want this in our area, I suggest you look at who made political contributions to the legislators that put these rules in place,” Haun said.
Steve Irwin, Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman, provided The Vindicator with copies of the applications Highland Field Services filed with the agency Jan. 19.
The agency’s database shows its location to be just west of the Wyngate Manor manufactured home community off state Route 7.
Irwin explained the ODNR is reviewing Highland’s application and has not decided whether the permit will be approved.
There will not be a public hearing regarding the application, but Highland will be required to publish a public notice if it gets to a point where it asks the ODNR for permission to begin commercial injections, Irwin said.
The public can provide comments at any time to the ODNR about the proposal, and some phone calls already have been received, he said.
Before the company would be allowed to begin commercial injection, the ODNR provides a list of requirements the company must meet, such as installing seismometers to detect any seismic activity, he said.
Vienna Township Trustee Phil Pegg has spent a great deal of time in recent years learning about injection wells because of the Kleese facility, which is on Sodom-Hutchings Road but has been closed since shortly after the 2015 spill.
Pegg said one concern about the Highland applications is that both wells call for injection of an average of 5,000 barrels per day of wastewater and a maximum of 10,000 barrels per day. If both wells injected 10,000 barrels of wastewater per day, that would be considerably more than the D&L Energy well on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown injected in the months leading to a 4.0-magnitude earthquake attributed to the well in 2011.
Vindicator archives indicate the Northstar well was injecting about 2,000 barrels of waste per day just before the earthquake.
The Highland Field Services wells propose to inject waste at 1,736 pounds per square inch. Northstar 1 was using injection pressures as high as 2,500 pounds per square inch in mid-2011, though it started at 1,890 pounds and rose to 2,250 in the spring, according to Vindicator files. It was approved for 2,500 pounds of pressure in May 2011.
Rob Boulware, manager of stakeholder relations for Highland Field Services, a subsidiary of Seneca Resources Corp., said the company’s geologists and engineers conducted a rigorous search and “determined that the Cambrian Strata [geologic formation] in Trumbull County, Ohio, has the proper parameters for safe injection of produced water, specifically high porosity and permeability.”
He said the 2011 Youngstown quake led to new state guidelines “that include considerations for seismic activity and seismic monitoring.”
Before submitting an application, companies must submit a request to the ODNR “that lists location, depth, target formation and potential seismic issues.”
The geologic formation into which the Highland wells propose to inject is “not the same as the [Youngstown injection well] that was the suspected source of the 2011 Youngstown quake,” he said, adding the injection volumes and pressures for the Highland wells “will ultimately be determined in the final permit and derived by geology and science.”
Highland plans to do surveys of groundwater “up to 2,000 feet from the proposed wells versus the 500 feet required by regulation.”