North Star gets permission to plug injection well blamed for 2011 earthquake

Staff report


North Star Disposal Services LLC has received permission to plug and abandon the Northstar I injection well that was blamed for the 4.0 earthquake Dec. 31, 2011, and other smaller quakes.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently released a copy of the permit to The Vindicator. It is dated June 6 and gives the owner permission to cement the well at various locations across its 9,192 feet of depth.

Steve Irwin, ODNR spokesman, said the purpose of plugging is so that “oil, gas, water or other fluids are confined to the reservoir rock in which it occurs.”

Once a well is plugged and abandoned, it is unlikely to return to use, he said.

North Star Disposal has until June 6, 2019, to plug the well.

The owner is listed as having the address 18 Hogue St., which is the address for Marucci and Gaffney Excavating.

In a phone call, The Vindicator was directed to speak with Tim Marucci, but a message seeking comment from him was not returned Friday.

Research into the causes of the 4.0 earthquake by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University indicated that as many as 109 tremors between January 2011 and February 2012 were directly linked to the Northstar 1 injection well, which is on the city’s West Side.

Researchers found that the first earthquake was recorded in the city 13 days after the well came online in December 2010 and continued to be responsible for the tremors that persisted into 2012.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Solid Earth.

in 2012, the ODNR released a similar report that strongly suggested the well played a part in the earthquakes after the agency said operators drilled too deeply into a layer of basement rock, known as the Precambrian, 9,000 feet below the earth’s surface.

When liquid was pumped at high pressure into the rocks, it caused them to crack, acting as a lubricant that allowed the rocks to slip under the weight of those above them, triggering the tremors, including the six quakes that could be felt throughout Youngstown and surrounding cities and towns.

The well was owned and operated by Northstar Disposal and D&L Energy. The owner of those companies, Ben W. Lupo, was sentenced in 2014 to 28 months in federal prison for ordering his employees of another company to illegally discharge oil-field waste down a storm drain and into a Mahoning River tributary in Youngstown.

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