Drilling Down

Coitsville Injection Well Site Issued OEPA Violation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A wastewater injection well site under development in Coitsville Township is in violation of Ohio Environmental Protection regulations, the agency says.

The Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation June 27 to Northstar Disposal Services VI, which is constructing a Class II wastewater injection well operation at 5100 McCartney Road. Northstar Disposal Services is operated by Bobcat Energy Resources, based in Canfield.

According to the notification, the Ohio EPA was informed by the Mahoning County Health Department that Northstar has installed a sewage holding-tank system on the property designed to accommodate an office building under construction at the site. The site, the violation noted, “is disposing sanitary wastewater through the use of an illegal storage tank.”

“Northstar did not seek or obtain a permit that would allow for the installation of this type of system prior to installing it,” said Ohio EPA spokesman Anthony Chenault via an email. “In fact, there is a local water-quality management plan for Mahoning and Trumbull counties that would prohibit this type of system and require connecting to the local sanitary sewer system.”

Under these regulations, the company would have to extend a sanitary sewer line from the site and tie-in to the local system, said Patrick Ginnetti, Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer.

“All I know is whatever they did with the holding tanks is in violation,” he said. The tanks would pertain just to sanitary waste from the office building and not the injection operation itself. “We’ve sent them our standards, and I believe they’ve hired some engineers to work on it.”

An email to Bobcat Energy requesting a comment was not returned at the time of this posting.

Class II injection wells accept contaminated wastewater generated from oil and gas drilling operations. Trucks carrying the waste inject the water into the wells, where it is stored thousands of feet below the surface. Nearly 200 of these wells are active in Ohio.

Bobcat Energy acquired the Collins No. 6 well after its previous owner, D&L Energy, liquidated in bankruptcy.  D&L was responsible for drilling the Northstar No. 1 well in Youngstown, which in 2011 was held responsible for triggering a series of earthquakes that shook the Mahoning Valley that year. The well has been shut down since a New Year’s Eve 2011 quake registered a magnitude of 4.0.

Subsequently, D&L’s former CEO, the late Ben Lupo, pleaded guilty of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act in 2014 in a separate incident in which he directed employees to illegally discharge toxic wastewater into a storm sewer drain. He was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison.

Bobcat has since acquired and activated a former D&L injection well in North Lima, and is preparing to activate the Coitsville injection well. The company also has plans to develop a third injection well in Hubbard Township.

“Right now, the EPA is driving this and it’s up in the air until they decide what they’re going to do,” Ginnetti said of the Coitsville well.

According to the EPA notice, the facility has installed two 1,000-gallon holding tanks to dispose of sanitary sewage from an office building that would be occupied by two employees during the day and one employee at night. During the day, the building’s bathroom could accommodate up to 10 people, including drivers, the notice said.

The notice said that the injection well is proposed to be ready within one to two months. 

On Monday, workers were busy at the site pouring concrete to form a large driveway to accommodate truck traffic in and out of the well operation. 

Northstar Disposal Services was to reply within 30 days of the notice to the Ohio EPA with documentation on how it will resolve the issues. It is unclear as to whether the company has responded to the violation notice at the time of this posting.

The presence of injection wells in the Mahoning Valley have encountered resistance from residents who have said the wells pose a threat to the public’s health and safety.

“It’s disturbing to hear they already have an EPA violation,” said Jane Spies of FrackFree America, an organization that opposes hydraulic fracturing and wastewater injection wells.  

She said it’s concerning that the Coitsville site is still very close to areas deemed prone to seismic activity. “I don’t see how the Ohio Department of Natural Resources can justify this well since it is less than two miles away from another well that wasn’t approved because it was near potential seismic activity,” she said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.