Our Earth

If this is a concern to you, you are not alone. Spurred by the promise of increased oil and gas drilling activity in our area, the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office has received several inquiries this past year. The questions and concerns have been about leasing, royalties, fracturing, and water contamination. While the SWCD can offer some advice about protecting water resources, additional items such as leasing, royalty payments and fracturing can be directed to an attorney, and, or to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas. The ODNR Oil and Gas website has a wealth of information for landowners. “http://www.oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/”>www.oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/

Can oil and gas well drilling affect

water quality or quantity?

Modern oil and gas well drilling is a highly technical and closely monitored process with regulations in place to protect underground sources of drinking water during and after the drilling process. The chance for contamination or loss of water due to drilling is very small. If ground water quality impacts occur, they most often are within a few hundred feet of the drill site. So, as a landowner, business or municipality what should you do? The SWCD recommends sampling and testing your water resources prior to any drilling activity. This will establish a base line of water quality for your water supply should contamination occur.

Addressing water

quality concerns

The quality of drinking water for humans (known as potable water) and for livestock should be a concern for everyone. To help you protect your existing resources from oil and gas drilling, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) have written an excellent fact sheet for landowners, businesses, and municipalities. It is, “Recommendations for Drinking Water Well Sampling Before Oil and Gas Drilling.” This fact sheet addresses the procedure to sample and test your current water supply prior to drilling activity. Subjects covered include the following: Information to obtain prior to collecting samples; What water tests to complete; How to locate a qualified person and laboratory to perform the sampling and analysis; Explanation of testing results; Agency roles in the process of determining ground water contamination from Oil and Gas Drilling. While this fact sheet focuses primarily on well water, a landowner may want to consider the same for their water supply from springs and ponds. This fact sheet can be accessed by the following method: Web searching “Recommendations for Drinking Water Well Sampling Before Oil and Gas Drilling “www.washingtongov.org/swcd – look for the link. You may also pick up a copy at the SWCD office at 21330 SR 676, Marietta.

Additional protection

On June 11, 2012, Gov. John Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 315, comprehensive energy legislation impacting the Ohio energy industry. The bill addresses water sampling and testing. When submitting a well application, an applicant now must submit pre-drilling water sampling/testing results if: (i) the well is being drilled in an urbanized area; or (ii) the permit is to drill a new horizontal well. For wells drilled in an urbanized area, water sampling must be completed for all water wells within 300 feet of the proposed horizontal well. R.C. 1509.06(A)(14). For new horizontal wells, water sampling must be completed for all water wells within 1,500 feet of the proposed horizontal well, but ODNR retains the authority to revise the distance if “necessary to protect a water supply” or “conditions at the proposed well site warrant such a revision.” R.C. 1509.06(A)(15). All water sampling must be done in accordance with certain best management practices adopted by ODNR. If a producer is denied access to such a water well by a landowner, then the oil and gas producer reports the denial to the Division of Oil and Gas. Though discussed during the process, requirements for post-drilling testing of water wells were not made a part of the final bill.

Kathy Davis is with the Washington Soil and Water Conservation District. Our Earth appears on alternate weeks in the weekend edition.