ODNR OKs 2 New Injection Wells in Brookfield

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has approved permits for Pittsburgh-based Highland Field Services LLC to begin work on two new wastewater injection wells in the township.

Highland Field Services submitted its permit applications on Jan. 19, seeking approval for two injection wells — No. 1 and No. 5 — on land just west of state Route 7, north of Warren-Sharon Road, or “Old 82,” and south of Merwin Chase Road, according to documents filed with ODNR.

ODNR spokesman Steve Irwin said that the agency’s Division of Oil & Gas has authorized the company to drill the wells and construct a surface facility according to specific conditions set forth by the agency.

“This is the first step in a two-step process, “ Irwin said. “They now have to file their construction plans, and do a series of tests and build the facility.” Once the surface unit is constructed, then Highland would submit an application seeking approval from the division chief to inject.

The permit to drill is good for one year, and comes attached with 18 specific conditions the company must meet before the well is approved for operation. These mandates include construction specifications, seismic monitoring and down-hole testing.

According to the permits, the site is located above an abandoned mineshaft.

Highland Field Services has said that the company selected the site because the geology in Trumbull County contains good porosity and permeability, and is therefore suitable for injecting wastewater safely into the Cambrian strata. State law prohibits the injection of wastewater into the pre-Cambrian strata.

Class II injection wells accept wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations across the state. The water produced from oil and gas exploration — a result of a process known as hydraulic fracturing — is contaminated, and must therefore be either recycled or disposed of.

There are 217 wastewater injection wells in operation across Ohio.

ODNR’s approval process included a public comment period, and the responses were posted on the agency’s website.

In March, the Buckeye Environmental Network, the Youngstown-based FrackFree America National Coalition, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, requested that ODNR deny the permits.

The groups emphasized that these wells pose a serious threat to the community, noting that wastewater from the wells could leach into the aquifer, poisoning water supplies for the entire region. She also said that the Brookfield wells are situated too close to residential homes and local businesses.

Also, the groups say this threat is evidenced by a series of earthquakes that hit the Mahoning Valley in 2011 that were associated with the operation of an injection well in Youngstown.

“I think it’s an immoral decision,” Jane Spies, a member of FrackFree America, said of ODNR’s decision to approve the wells. “It’s a threat to public health and safety because we’re already earthquake-prone.” She also called on Highland Field Resources to abandon its plans to develop the wells here.

The 2011 earthquakes were tied to the operation of the Northstar #1 injection well, which produced a 4.0 magnitude quake on Dec. 31 that caused damage to some property.

Earlier this month, ODNR approved an application to plug and abandon that well.

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