Athens County Commissioners To Host Public Meeting On Injection Wells

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A public meeting will be held by the Athens County Commissioners so that people can express their views on a pending injection well permit application.

The meeting was requested Tuesday by the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN), although a date has not yet been set. In July, K&H Partners of West Virginia applied for a permit to install an injection well off Athens County Road 63, which runs between Coolville and Torch. It already has one injection well in that area.

Injection wells are used to dispose of brine and other byproducts of oil and gas drilling, including waste from hydraulic fracturing, by injecting the waste deep underground. ACFAN members have said they are concerned about potential ground water contamination and other environmental problems resulting from the hazardous substances in fracking waste, and about what they consider to be lax regulation of injection wells by ODNR.

The county commissioners had previously written the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to request that ODNR hold a public hearing on K&H Partners’ pending permit application. Attached to that request was a list of more than two dozen concerns Athens County residents have raised about the K&H Partners application and injection wells in general.

Andrea Reik, a member of ACFAN, told the commissioners that ODNR received more than 100 comments about the pending permit application during a comment period that expired Sept. 9. She said that so far ODNR has not said whether it will hold the public hearing requested by the commissioners and others.

Mark Bruce, spokesman for ODNR, said Tuesday that the agency “continues to diligently review” the comments and objections that were received about the K&H Partners permit application.

“… The chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management will determine if the objections are relevant,” Bruce said.

A hearing by ODNR is required if the chief considers an objection to be relevant to issues of public health or safety or good conservation practices, or to have substance, according to the Ohio Administrative Code.

Absent word from ODNR on a public hearing, Reik and other members of ACFAN asked the commissioners to hold a public meeting to allow people to raise their concerns.

“I think that it is important that people have a forum where people can express their concerns,” Commission President Lenny Eliason said regarding why he supported having a public meeting.

Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ODNR, the county’s congressional delegation, the well operators and the public will be invited to the meeting, according to the commissioners.

Members of ACFAN said they want the United States EPA to take back injection well oversight in Ohio, which the EPA gave to the state in 1983. According to ACFAN, the U.S EPA has more stringent permitting standards.

The public meeting hosted by the commissioners also will be an opportunity for people to comment on the Ginsberg injection well, located on Ladd Ridge Road.

Earlier this month, the commissioners approved a resolution asking ODNR to shut down the well. The resolution asserts that the Ginsberg well “has a 25-year history of violations, well failures, notices to be shut down and incomplete inspection reports.”