Drilling Down

ODNR Orders Kleese to Shut Down 5 Injection Wells

VIENNA, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has ordered five injection wells operated by Kleese Development Associates, Warren, to cease operations after it found the company is responsible for contamination of a nearby pond and wetland.

ODNR oil and gas chief Richard Simmers issued the order April 3, one day after the agency became aware of the spill, according to documents. Kleese must also remediate any contamination at the site, the regulatory agency said.

Kleese uses a single surface facility at 5061 Warren-Sharon Road for all five of its Vienna Township wells, according to the ODNR report. The operation was built to accommodate two wells initially, but was expanded in 2012 with ODNR’s authorization.

The company told media outlets before the ODNR order that it had voluntarily shut down its operations after the spill was discovered. Kleese issued a statement late Monday saying it’s “launching an internal review of KDA protocols to ensure that we have the right processes in place to promote environmental stewardship.”

John Hopkinson of 884 Sodom Hutchings Road, who owns a pond near the Kleese wells, notified the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency April 1 of the spill and lodged a formal complaint, according to a pollution incident report. He said that he first discovered the contamination March 25 as the ice melted, reporting a “scum-type material on his pond” that had a “petroleum type odor.”

“There was this orange slime,” Hopkinson reported. “It looked really bad.”

“They’ve got booms in the water right now, and removing a lot of the scum,” Hopkinson said Monday. “They’re working nonstop.”

During an emergency meeting of the Vienna Township Trustees last night, attended by about 150 residents, the OEPA’s Kurt Kollar said nearly all the surface contamination has been removed but it could take months to clean up what remains on the contaminated vegetation.

Kollar said the investigation is continuing into what caused the spill of some 2,000 gallons of waste oil and indications are its source may be a storm drain on Kleese property.

When Hopkinson first noticed the spill, there were 30 to 40 dead fish along the pond’s banks, a dead turtle, and a dead muskrat, he said. The Ohio EPA is also supposed to test the well water soon, he says. His water well is just 50 feet from the contaminated pond.

State Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-33, said Monday that Nestle Co. donated two truckloads of water to Vienna residents concerned about whether their water was safe to drink.

“As of right now, it’s starting to look better,” Hopkinson said of his pond. “It’s in a wait-and-see mode right now.”

Hopkinson’s pond feeds into a larger lake behind his property, and he said workers were busy Monday containing any contamination of that area.

“It’s not a good situation,” he added.

ODNR’s oil and gas division said it was notified of the incident April 2, the chief’s order says, and inspectors traced the spill “back to an area near the Kleese surface facility.” The investigation determined that the spill was likely related to the injection-well operations.

The division found that Kleese violated Ohio law by failing to conduct saltwater disposal operations in a “manner that which will not contaminate or pollute the surface of the land, or water on the surface or subsurface.” The findings also cite Kleese for failing to construct a surface facility “so as to prevent pollution to surrounding surface and subsurface soils and waters.”

Susie Beiersdorfer of Frack Free Mahoning County, an organization opposed to the practice of hydraulic fracturing and using injection wells to store contaminated waste, noted that Hopkinson contacted the group after he discovered the spill.

“He called our number, so a couple people went out Thursday and Friday,” she said. FrackFree representatives then took photos of the damage.

“When we were out there, the smell, the dead animals and the devastation of the land and ponds was just really sad,” Beiersdorfer said.

Pictured: Submitted photo of the spill along the pond’s banks.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.