Commissioners Get Invited To Tour Injection Wells

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A decision by the Athens County Commissioners on whether to support a complaint regarding two injection wells near Torch won’t be made until the commissioners have an opportunity to tour the wells, Commission President Lenny Eliason said Tuesday.

The well owners have extended an invitation for all three commissioners to tour the sites, but did not want members of the media and Athens County Fracking Action Network there, according to Eliason. Because of Ohio’s open meetings law, the commissioners will have to take the tours separately, he said.

Eliason said he has scheduled a tour for Thursday.

Commissioner Charlie Adkins said he will decide whether to ask for a tour once Eliason fills him in after his visit Thursday.

“If there is something I think I can gain from it, I will (ask for a tour),” Adkins said.

Commissioner Chris Chmiel said Tuesday he hasn’t called to arrange a tour, but probably will.

Last week, members of Athens County Fracking Action Network asked the commissioners to lend their support to a complaint filed June 4 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by ACFAN and Appalachia Resist.

The complaint reiterates concerns raised earlier about an injection well K&H Partners has been operating in Troy Twp., but also raises concern about the cement casing on a newly drilled injection well and a spill that occurred during drilling of that well.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce told The Messenger last week that K&H Partners was fined $50,000 for the brine spill. The spill occurred, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, when a pocket of pressurized brine was hit during drilling. Cleanup of the spill was overseen by the Ohio EPA and ODNR, officials said. Bruce also said there is not a problem with the cementing, and that ODNR inspectors were there when it was done.

The complaint asserts that there has been a “fundamental breakdown in Ohio’s regulatory process” regarding injection wells and asks the U.S. EPA to exercise its oversight authority to correct problems in the management of the injection well program. The complaint also asks that the U.S. EPA “bring appropriate enforcement action” in federal court against the well operator, and asks that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources be required to adopt a standard operating procedure to deal with emergency and remedial situations.

Last week when ACFAN members met with the commissioners to ask their support, Chmiel suggested that the commissioners take a field trip to the site of the wells. That was done this Tuesday, although there wasn’t much to see since they didn’t want to go on private property without permission.

Eliason said the commissioners could make a decision on the ACFAN request next week, depending on when and if the other two commissioners schedule tours of the wells.