For petroleum geologist David Hill, of Byesville, being a responsible oil driller is just common sense.
"I'm a local producer," he said. "I have a vested interest to not to do the wrong thing, but to do to the right thing because I live in this community."
There are many benefits of oil and natural gas drilling, such as the jobs that are created in the industry, the many ways in which natural gas and crude oil can be used and the royalty payments that landowners receive when wells on their property are drilled.
But, there are also safety and environmental concerns that exist.
"Oil by itself, it contains a wide variety of toxic substances," said Eric Fitch, associate professor of environmental science at Marietta College. "When we go in there and we open it up and bring it into the natural environment, there are environmental threats from drilling and production all the way through use."
Fitch pointed out that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry compiled a report on total petroleum hydrocarbons, which can enter the environment through accidents, from industrial releases or as byproducts from commercial or private uses.
Oil and gas drilling and production operations in Ohio are regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Officials ensure that drillers take steps to protect against ground water and surface water contamination.
Officials ensure that drillers maintain the integrity of their equipment so natural gas doesn't leak and create a fire.
The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program offers a variety of safety training programs, including one for emergency responders which prepares them for oil and gas emergencies.
Source: Times research
"It's a 300-page document that details the hazardous and toxic substances that can be found in oil," he said.
According to the agency's website, www.atsdr.cdc.gov, total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) is the term used to describe the many chemical compounds that originally come from crude oil.
People can be exposed to it in a variety of ways, including drinking water that has been contaminated or living in an area that is close to where a petroleum product spill or leak has occurred.
Some TPH compounds can affect a person's central nervous system, while others have the ability to impact the blood, immune system, lungs, skin and eyes.
Hill operates wells in Ohio and West Virginia, and he said he and other drillers in the Buckeye State are regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is charged with enforcing Ohio Revised Code 1509, which addresses oil and gas drilling.
"Everything I do as an oil and gas producer, from time I put a stake in the ground for the life of that well until it's plugged, an oil and gas inspector - he's a trained employee of ODNR - he's there and he's monitoring," Hill said.
Tom Tugend, deputy chief of the ODNR division of mineral resources management, said in order to ensure safety, oil and natural gas drillers must keep up with "housekeeping" at the rigs and maintain the integrity of their equipment.
"If they don't maintain a dike around the tank battery where they store the fluid after the wells are produced ... that's a potential point for contamination of the surface water and ground water," he said. "Maintaining the integrity of equipment is important to prevent leaks ... leaking natural gas can create a fire hazard."
Hill said thanks to advances in technology, the manner in which oil and gas are drilled today is far different than how it used to be drilled. As a result, there is less of an impact on the environment, he said.
"One hundred and fifty years ago when we drilled wells, they lined the hole with hollowed-out tree trunks to keep the hole from caving in," he said. "Now, we use steel casing - it's heavy wall casing - it meets the standards of the American Petroleum Institute and we use cement to hold the casing in place to protect the freshwater and the environment."
A process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is commonly used now. The process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and hazardous chemicals into a well to create pressure and split a formation apart and release trapped gas.
The practice is controversial, as some fear fluid or wastewater from fracking could contaminate drinking water supplies.
Carl Heinrich, general manager of Washington Operations in Reno, said fracking is done safely, with a steel casing in the well to prevent materials from affecting water supplies.
"It's happening thousands of feet below the water-producing zone and the casing's cemented in," he said.
Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) executive director Rhonda Reda noted that the environmental footprint of natural gas and crude oil drilling has also been reduced. She said the well diameter of an average Ohio well is about the size of a soccer ball.
"Once the well is drilled, you have to put on the production equipment so you can lift that natural gas and oil out of ground and your whole environmental footprint is about the size of an average dining room," she said. "That well will produce for decades - the oldest well in Washington County has been producing for 80 years."
Reda noted that OOGEEP offers a variety of safety training programs, including a free training program to prepare first responders to deal with oil and gas emergencies.
She said almost 600 fire departments in the state, including a few local ones, have participated in the training, wherein firefighters are trained to use foam applications rather than water.
"Ohio is the very first state to do this, and now we are helping other states set up similar training programs," she said.
Reda said it's crucial that firefighters are trained to use foam rather than water to fight a blaze at an oil rig because water can actually make the situation worse.
"It (the foam) puts a blanket over that liquid and completely smothers it - water will not put it out," she said. "You must use great caution because you could create more of an environmental issue ... you can overflow the dike area."