A recently completed report by a fracking advisory committee finds that hydraulic fracturing could bring economic benefits to Athens County, but advises county commissioners to focus on the more likely prospect of an increase in wastewater injection wells as a result of regional and interstate shale drilling.
The Athens County Strategic Advisory Committee on Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing presented their final report to county commissioners Tuesday.
The group found, through recent geological surveys and expert information, that the process of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) is a future possibility in Athens County, but the area is not considered one of the richer pockets for shale drilling development in the region.
Rather, the committee says Athens County's limestone is "considered well-suited for injection disposal."
"Unless gas and oil prices rise significantly, or if the local Utica/Pt. Pleasant shale geology proves more productive than projected, Athens County will continue to see an increasing number of disposal wells and injected waste," according to the report.
Al Blazevicius, committee chair, presented the report to the commissioners.
Blazevicius said even out-of-state fracking can cause problems in Athens County.
"The most immediate issue for us is disposal wells, in particular out-of-state waste being injected into our disposal wells. As part of the report, we did make a number of recommendations that we think would be important for the commissioners, the county sheriff, the county health department, and the county engineers department to act on," said Blazevicius.
The report listed the effects of injected wastewater on water pollution, citizen health and road degradation as major areas for concern.
Citing the disposal of fracking wastewater as "the most pressing issue for Athens County," the committee offered some of the following recommendations:
– The sheriff's department, county engineer's department and health department become actively involved in the surveillance and inspections of roads, waterways and land near injection wells receiving out-of-state wastewater, along with the appropriate enforcement and prosecution of any illegal brine dumping.
– The Athens County Health Department establish baseline water tests near injection wells and perform periodic testing
– The development of a state-level bill for testing and taxing out-of-state waste
– A modification of the Road Use Maintenance Agreement to include injection well operators.
The committee also made recommendations for deep shale drilling "in the event this becomes a likelihood in Athens County, Ohio" which included urging energy companies to follow a set of operation guidelines developed by the committee, hiring more staff for the county recorder and county auditor, encouraging local high schools and vocational schools market their drilling-related programs.
The advisory committee was formed earlier this year especially for the purpose of completing this research for the commissioners.
After completing the report, the advisory committee has been given no other immediate tasks, but Blazevicius says he has been speaking with State Representative Debbie Phillips (D-Athens) about drafting the bill which would require testing of out-of-state waste.
The complete report is available in the attached PDF file.