Although the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has approved Highland Field Services’ drilling of three injection wells on property on which it already has been approved for two others, anti-well opponents vowed to continue their efforts.
“I’m going to go down fighting,” said Jim Hennessy, whose Merwin Chase Road property neighbors the well property, which is on the west side of Route 7 just north of Wyngate Manor Mobile Home Park.
Hennessy, who is with Brookfield Citizens Against Injection Wells, said he fears the wells will drive down his property value and contaminate his water well. ODNR said regulations protect current and potentially future sources of drinking water.
Referring to links between injection wells and earthquakes, Hennessy said, “You can only play with Mother Nature so far.”
ODNR said earthquakes associated with injection wells are “extremely rare” and it has stepped up study of seismic activity, including requiring those who receive permits to install seismic monitors near their wells.
ODNR issued permits to Highland to drill two wells in June and handed down the last three March 16.
“We are pleased to receive our approval from the ODNR, and we will continue moving forward with site preparation and road construction,” the company said through spokesman Rob Boulware.
Highland is the water management arm of Seneca Resources.
“Seneca Resources has been an active exploration and production company in the northeastern U.S. for more than 100 years,” the company said. “Our commitment to responsible business operations is deeply rooted in six guiding principles: safety, environmental stewardship, community, innovation, satisfaction and transparency. Every day, these principles help guide the planning and execution of our business activities. This project will reflect the same values.”
The well will dispose of oil and gas drilling wastewater by sending it under pressure into a porous rock layer between two more solid layers, with a basement depth of 8,750 feet.
Permit conditions include muffling equipment and putting up sound barriers on the eastern, northern and southern sides; coating any underground vaults with an anti-corrosion material to prevent deterioration caused by saltwater; and installing a cutoff switch that will be activated if injection pressure exceeds 1,750 pounds per square inch.
Highland started clearing the land and building a road last fall. The company expects to build and test one well this year, with the success of that test and market conditions determining whether any more are built, said company spokesman Rob Boulware.
“We won’t be drilling all five at once,” he said.
In the drilling process known as fracking, a driller shoots water, sand and chemicals into shale to break it up, releasing the natural gas contained within the rock. The water used in the process and water that is disturbed underground comes up through the well bore and is collected. It is reused when possible but, if there are no other uses for it, it is disposed of in injection wells.
The addition of new gas wells would reduce the need to dispose of the water, Boulware said.
Tests will show if the porous rock into which the waste water will be injected will live up to assumptions about it, he said. If not, the project will be halted, he said.
The initial tests will inject fresh water, with brine added if those tests go well, Boulware said.
The permit requires Highland to notify ODNR in writing of impending injection operations, and not to commence them without written approval.
“Obviously, there are rules and regulations that govern how we operate the wells,” Boulware said.
Highland will work “alongside” regulators to foster a “culture of respect to the environment.”
Although opponents have predicted a negative community impact from the noise and the trucks that will go in and out of the site, Boulware said their fears are unfounded.
“In reality, most people won’t know the facility is there,” he said.
Well opponents said they will continue their activism. They have planned a rally for 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. April 5 on the green in Brookfield Center.
“We’re reaching out to other communities and the candidates that are running,” in hopes of showing that opposition stretches beyond Brookfield’s borders, said Jane Spies of Hubbard, who helped organize Brookfield Citizens Against Injection Wells.
Hennessy added that he still wants to take a bus trip to Columbus to make their point to legislators and regulators. At last count, 28 people had signed up, which is short of the goal of 50.
“We’re not going away,”Spies said. “We’re just going to step up our game.”