Concern over injection wells in Coolville

Back to back semi trucks-the word “brine” stenciled on the tanks they hauled-crossed the narrow bridge right below Coolville resident Dorothy Radar’s house Friday afternoon. Three minutes later a school bus followed.

The tandem trucks only represent a fraction of the dozens of trucks that pass Radar’s house every day, heading to a Class II injection well two miles down the road on Ohio 144.

That and another Class II injection well approximately five miles away on West Belpre Pike Road are a concern for area residents, said Radar, 66.

The wells are storage sites for brine-the liquid waste material left over from hydraulic fracturing.

“Most of us are against it, but so many fear to say something,” said Radar.

Saturday, she and around 150 others participated in a protest at the site of the injection well on West Belpre Pike Road.

Radar’s main concern is that the wells could be a health hazard if there were ever to be a spill or leak.

“So many people in our area have our own wells. We are one of them. It’s already been contaminated with C8 from Dupont. They check it every six months for the C8 levels,” she said.

Little Hocking resident Loran Conley, 60, is also on well water and has the same concern.

“I have three wells and I will never ever be able to have city water,” she said.

Conley also alluded to the fact that many area wells are already undergoing treatment for C8.

“If we get more contamination in the well, I don’t know where we’ll go for water,” she said.

Conley lives “a mile away as the crow flies” from the brine well on West Belpre Pike Road.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which gives permits for the injection wells, has a multitude of safety precautions in place to ensure the wells never leak and that the transfer of brine from trucks to wells is done as safely as possible, said ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce.

“Our permit review process is one of the most comprehensive in the country,” he said.

Before issuing a permit for an injection well, ODNR reviews land, geologic data, seismic data, proposed well volume and pressure, and analyses of nearby water sources. ODNR also requires that brine transfers take place over concrete vaults and that storage tanks be built with dikes around them that would contain 110 percent of the storage volume in the event of a leak, said Bruce.

Injection wells are built with several protective layers, he added.

“The wells are required to have multiple layers of steel and cement protecting and isolating the ground water. They are continuously monitored all the time,” he said.

Wells are inspected once every 11 to 12 weeks, he said.

Still, the water safety is not the only concern.

While Conley is far enough away that her property value has not suffered, others closer to the injection site have property values that have plummeted, she said.

Central Environmental Services, of Washington W.Va., which owns the well on West Belpre Pike Road, did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Additionally, the massive truck traffic poses a traffic safety concern, said Radar.

Ohio 144 is home to Federal Hocking High School and Federal Hocking Middle School.

“We’re concerned any time there is an increased traffic,” said George Wood, superintendent of Federal Hocking School District.

Approximately a half dozen buses travel on the road during both a morning and afternoon route, he said.

“It isn’t a road that has normally had that kind of traffic on it,” Wood acknowledged.

He said the school district appreciated a letter from Lee Atha, owner of the injection well on Ohio 144, which told more about the well and what it will mean for traffic.

The school has communicated that to its students and families in the hopes that increased awareness will lead to safer driving, said Wood.

Atha declined to comment for this story.

Wear and tear on the roads is another concern.

“State Route 144 is a very narrow, two-lane, old road, that is cracking and holes developing because of the semi’s going back and forth,” said Radar.

The bridge just below Radar’s house has already needed to be reinforced with steel plates, she said.

Radar said she does not hope to shut down the wells already in place, but hopes to stop more wells from coming into the area.

Radar worries a dried gas well on her property could be next. She leased the mineral rights long ago and nothing in the deed prevents the owner from turning the well into an injection site, she said.

“It feels like they’re just dumping these (injection wells) on us because we’re just out in the middle of nowhere. We’re just a bunch of Appalachian hicks,” she said.