Drilling Down

Brookfield Residents Worry about 3 More Injection Wells

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – Highland Field Services LLC, Pittsburgh, is seeking permits to drill three new Class II wastewater injection wells in the township at a site where two are already planned.

Highland Field Services, a subsidiary of Seneca Resources, applied for the three permits Sept. 28, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The wells would be on land north of Warren-Sharon Road, west of state Route 7 and south of Merwin-Chase Road, according to ODNR.

In June, ODNR issued permits to Highland to move forward with the construction of two wells at the site. The three additional wells would make five in Brookfield and raise the number of injection wells operating in Trumbull County to 21.

Thus far, no signs of construction can be seen at the site, but those who live in this heavily residential portion of the township say they’re concerned about safety and threats to the environment.

“There have been quite a few ‘For Sale’ signs that have gone up this year,” observes Dana Basse as she walks through her woodsy backyard in the Wyngate Manor Mobile Home Park. She and her husband, Paul, have lived in the park nearly 50 years and are worried that the presence of a cluster of injection wells nearby could affect water safety and the value of their home.

The injection well site abuts the park to the west, and Basse said the company has cleared some trees to make way for the first well.

“We’re concerned about earthquakes, toxic leaks and the potential for water pollution,” she said.

Wyngate is densely populated with 240 lots – most of them occupied, Basse said. What concerns Basse is that there is just one access road from the park that empties onto Route 7, which brings up safety issues should an emergency occur at any of the wells. “There are a lot of elderly people living here, and we have a one-road entrance,” she said.

Moreover, the additional truck traffic the wells would attract could cause problems along Route 7, Basse continued.

Another concern among residents in the park is earthquakes, which she said have been linked to injection wells. In 2011, a series of earthquakes hit the Mahoning Valley, culminating in a 4.0 quake that was tied to the operation of an injection well in Youngstown.

“We’re all concerned about it,” said one neighbor who declined to give her name as she walked her dog. “Earthquakes could be devastating for mobile homes.”

The homes in the park are especially vulnerable since they sit on cement slabs, Basse said, which could easily crack during a tremor.

The community is frustrated, Basse said, because they have a sense they have no power to shape or regulate this sort of development, especially in residential areas. And, the township lacks jurisdiction in oil and gas matters, so zoning laws aren’t applicable.

In Ohio, all oil- and gas-related developments are governed by ODNR. Class II injection wells are used to store wastewater that results from drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a process used to stimulate oil and gas wells by injecting water, sand and chemicals into the wellbore under high pressure. The resultant wastewater is too toxic to be stored in landfills, so it is stored in injection wells.

“There are a lot of families living back here,” Basse added, noting also that she’s never seen as many homes up for sale in the neighborhood at one time, and she suspects residents might be having second thoughts about living near an injection well.

Many residences line Route 7 and Merwin-Chase Road, and all who live there want to feel safe, Basse said. “We’re just trying to prevent damage to a rural community and Trumbull County,” she said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.