ODNR issues permit for injection well in Little Hocking amidst pollution fears
BELPRE, Ohio. (WTAP) - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has issued a permit for an injection well in Little Hocking. Some locals and the Little Hocking Water Association fear the project could pollute their drinking water.
Linda Aller, a hydrogeologist with Bennett and Williams who works with the Little Hocking Water Association, explained, “They’re using these wells to dispose of all those unwanted liquids from drilling and fracking.”
It will be owned by Arrowhead Road Services LLC, which already has another injection well in the area.
There have been several local meetings held about the project. Click the links below to learn more about those meetings.
The Little Hocking Water Association General Manager John Smith said the injection site is only about a mile away from their well field.
Aller said the new Arrowhead injection well could interfere with improperly plugged orphan wells that might be in the area.
“..., there’s a lot of wells that were drilled in the old days where no one knows where they really are that weren’t correctly plugged,” she explained.
The consequences of that would be contaminated drinking water and environmental pollution, according to Aller. She explained that injection wells inject fluid into the ground, which creates pressure, which could force the fluid back up if there’s a hole from an orphan well underground.
“If it comes back up, it can then move into the shallower formations, which are where you get your water supply from,” she said.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said it cannot calculate the risk orphan wells pose but acknowledged that the risk is there.
The division also stated that ODNR and Arrowhead were required to review all available records of wells in the area.
It is not known, however, how many undocumented orphan wells are in Ohio.
Aller said there’s also a fault line in the area that may interfere with the well, causing the fluid to spread beyond the area intended, contaminating drinking water and the environment.
“The idea is, if these fluids when you put them in and you put them under pressure, they can move along those faults or they can actually cause the faults to move…so, if the faults move, that’s an earthquake,” she explained.
The ODNR stated that there’s a seismic monitoring network nearby that will monitor the new well.
It also stated that information already collected shows the ground can withstand the project.
Aller said she’s also concerned about trucks bringing fluids to the site having spills, which would contaminate the water supply.
“A spill on the surface would take whatever brine was in the truck or whatever fracking fluids were in the truck and dump them directly on the surface…,” she said.
The ODNR stated that surface spill contamination is rare. However, if a spill happens, ODNR can order Arrowhead to shut down immediately to fix the spill. ODNR can also provide a “written violation”, revoke permit, “compliance agreement”, and refer the case to the Ohio Attorney General.
The ODNR stated that it may take on the spill remediation costs if there is an immediate risk to public health, safety, and environment and no responsible party is identified.
Still Little Hocking Water Association is taking proactive measures.
General Manager John Smith explained, ”After our meeting at Saint Andrews church - the board, we decided to do sampling.”
He elaborated, “For the next two years, every quarter we’re going to sample our well field to make sure there hadn’t been any changes.”
It’s a precaution they’ve already put in place for Arrowhead’s other well in the area, according to Smith.
Aller said it’s too soon to say whether there’s fallout for that well.
The fight against Arrowhead injection wells isn’t new for Little Hocking Water Association. Smith said they first confronted ODNR in 2020, when the permit for Arrowhead’s first well in the area came out.
“Our concern of course is the safety of our customers and we’re doing the best we can to protect them,” Smith said.
If Little Hocking Water Association’s drinking water supply becomes contaminated, the association would probably have to find a new water source according to Smith. He noted it would be a costly endeavor.
Aller said of the pollution concerns surrounding the upcoming project, “Clearly we’re hoping that it never happens. That would be the first thing. But the geological conditions in the area indicate that there’s a possibility that it could.”
ODNR stated that, if injection fluid gets into drinking water, typically the owner of the injection well must temporarily provide drinking water or reimburse the water supply owner.
Fees collected from class two injection wells go towards ODNR operations and the oil and gas well fund, according to ODNR. The division said this is not the sole source of funding.
The oil and gas well fund funds ODNR regulating the oil and gas industry as well as plugging idle and orphan wells, according to ODNR.
The division stated that it reviewed the well application to make sure both the environment and public health are protected during the well’s operation and construction.
It stated in a document addressing concerns, “Disposal of brine is a necessary part of oil and gas production.”
An ODNR media contact said that division staff regularly inspect wells.
Arrowhead Road Services LLC has not responded to WTAP’s multiple requests for comment.
To read ODNR’s full response to concerns, click here.
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