Trumbull Residents, Officials Meet Over Injection Wells

WARREN, Ohio — Citizens and public officials in Trumbull County are looking for ways to bring oversight of Class II injection wells back to the local level.

During a meeting held Wednesday by Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, and attended by county commissioners and about 50 residents, concerns were raised about safety and responsibility, particularly as it relates to the use of roads and bridges.

“The engineers office will not take a position either for or against oil-related activity,” Smith began. “We’re simply here to look out for our roads and bridges.”

The meeting was scheduled in response to complaints received by the engineer’s office concerning injection wells. In one such case, residents in Vienna complained of increased truck traffic in front of Mathews High School, which they say poses a risk to safety.

“We get questions from parents wondering why we haven’t objected to the amount of traffic in front of our high school,” says Mary Swift, a Vienna resident and member of the Mathews School Board.

“I was hoping we could facilitate a meeting between the engineer’s office and the well owner just to see if we could work something out on that end,” she told The Business Journal following the meeting.

These types of discussions are quite common, says Smith, adding that his office has had a good dialogue with the operators of the 17 injection wells in Trumbull County, the most in any Ohio county.

“Anything we have asked them to do, they have cooperated with us as far as the road repair goes,” he says.

Class II injection wells are used to dispose of wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing. Under the Ohio Revised Code, Road Use Maintenance Agreements (RUMA), do not apply to them. Still, Smith says his office hasn’t encountered any issues.

“From my perspective that process has worked well and I would deem it a success,” he says.

Smith points to four recent examples to support his statement:

When increased traffic from a well on Warner Road caused some damage, the county posted a weight limit restriction, catching the attention of the operator. The two parties worked together to repair the road, with the operator picking up some of the cost.

In the case of a well on Sodom Hutchings Road, the operator noticed the condition of the road before work began and offered to help with repairs. Two similar cases also occurred in Newton and Brookfield townships, the county engineer says.

Jack Simon, RUMA coordinator for the engineer’s office, says while RUMA’s don’t apply to injection wells, his office has reached similar agreements with operators.

“We do have two signed RUMA’s, which is basically unheard of in the state, on two injection wells,” Simon says. The office has also obtained “memorandums of understanding with other injection well drillers to improve the roadways at their own expense.”

Memorandums of understanding are what David Hill, the president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and an injection well operator, recommends as common practice.

“A RUMA for injection wells, we don’t need to do that. That is overreach,” Hill says.

His chief concern is that certain industries will be disproportionately strapped with costly agreements.

For instance, he continues, RUMA’s are not applied to trash collectors or school buses. “They’re all damaging the roads and they’re all paying road use taxes,” says Hill.

As for Swift’s complaint about traffic in Vienna, Hill recommends contacting the operator directly.

“She should call that operator and tell them, ‘I saw your truck acting inappropriately and I want you to quit doing that.’ That word gets around and it will make a difference.”

Still, several at the meeting, including commissioners, voiced their frustration over a lack of local control.

Attorney Thomas Carey of Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell gave a presentation on the permitting process and answered questions posed by the audience. When asked by Swift, the Matthews school board member, what course of action she could take in regards to the increased traffic, he responded, “I don’t see one to be honest with you. I think perhaps you have to complain to Columbus and get some interest from the ODNR.”

Another meeting is planned for tonight at 6 p.m.

Copyright 2015 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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