A citizens group has filed an appeal of a state agency’s permission allowing Highland Field Services LLC to operate the waste water injection well it has built in Brookfield.
“There is nothing in the appeal that precludes Highland Field Services from operating the well,” Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Adam Schroeder said Monday, Nov. 26. “It is the Division’s understanding that Highland Field Services is planning to begin regular operations at the well as early as this week.”
ODNR said it received the appeal Nov. 21.
James Yskamp, attorney with Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, Pittsburgh, which is representing Brookfield Citizens Against Injection Wells, said there are no specific timelines set for appeals. The executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, which will hear the appeal, likely will talk to the parties about a response from Highland, discovery (the sharing of materials between the parties) and setting a hearing date, Yskamp said.
The commission is not full time and a hearing date would have to be set when it is in session, he said.
Yskamp said he is considering asking for a stay, an order that Highland not operate the well while the appeal is pending.
In October, ODNR issued what is known as a Chief’s Order, saying Highland can inject brine, the waste water generated by oil and gas drilling operations, into permeable rock more than 8,000 feet below the surface. The permeable rock is sandwiched between two layers of more dense rock.
“Injection well operators and regulators work through a rigorous permitting process that is outlined by applicable state and federal agencies to ensure the proper siting, construction and operation of injection wells,” said Highland spokesman Rob Boulware. “As noted in the Chief’s Order on October 22, Highland Field Services’ ‘Brookfield No. 5 saltwater injection well complies with the requirements of (Ohio Revised Code) 1509.22 and Ohio (Administrative) Code 1501:9-3, is not in violation of law, does not jeopardize public health or safety, and is in accordance with good conservation practices.’ We have not had the opportunity to review this appeal, but believe the Chief’s Order is sound and in compliance with applicable regulations.”
In its appeal, the citizen’s group argued that the Chief’s Order is illegal because ODNR did not determine whether there are any seismic faults in the area, which has a “high potential for induced seismic activity.”
“The science is finally catching up with injection wells,” Yskamp said, arguing that research has shown that the more injection wells there are in an area, the more seismic activity the area experiences.
The permit also was issued without a calculation as to the “cumulative seismic impact of injection wells already permitted and in operation,” the appeal said.
ODNR also did not require measures to ensure that there won’t be spills or leaks, and did not adequately protect underground sources of drinking water, the appeal said.
In related matters:
Brookfield Board of Education on Nov. 20 allowed Trumbull County Health Department to send surveys to student families as part of a study of the health effects of the injection well on students and their families.
Brookfield Fire Chief David Masirovits said Nov. 26 that he had toured the well site and gone over the site’s emergency plan. The chief said his top concern for the site is any medical emergencies that might befall the truckers who deliver the brine, the on-site attendant or the security guards. The chief said he talked about how a natural disaster such as a lightning strike or a tornado would be handled. He noted there is remote monitoring of the site. “They not only monitor all the pressures and all the piping and everything else, but they also monitor it via video, and they’re able to shut it down from those remote locations should something occur,” Masirovits said. The chief said he was impressed with the site’s spill response containment plan. There is a storage tank underneath the offloading pad that is designed to hold spilled brine, plus matting underneath the tank that can hold hundreds of thousands of gallons, he said.