Brady Twp. residents voice opinions on proposed well|
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
By Josh Woods Staff Writer
LUTHERSBURG - More than 200 people packed Brady Township community center last night to voice their opposition to a proposed disposal injection well in Brady Township. State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-75 of DuBois and the Clearfield County Commissioners were among a large throng who opposed the well at last night's public hearing hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Windfall Oil and Gas plans to develop a deep injection well in the Highland Street Extension area for the disposal of brine water left from Marcellus shale drilling operations. According to a previous article in The Progress, about 15 percent of the water that's pumped into a Marcellus shale well during the fracking process returns to the surface. The brine water either has to be recycled, treated or pumped back underground into deep injection wells due to its high concentration of salt and heavy metals or minerals it picks up underground.
Karen Johnson of the EPA groundwater enforcement branch said there are six classes of wells and the proposed well is categorized as a Class 2 oil and gas disposal well. EPA's purpose for reviewing Windfall's permit application is to ensure its operation adheres to the Safe Water Drinking Act. The purpose of the act is to protect current and future sources of water, she said.
EPA review areas are calculated based on where a pressure increase could cause an unplugged well to be a conduit for gas migration, she said. Class 2 wells have a quarter mile review area. EPA notifies residents within a one-mile radius when a well permit is submitted.
"There are two types of jurisdiction," said Johnson. "EPA oversees injection wells and the state oversees production wells. EPA oversees the casing, cementing, testing and monitoring of injection wells."
The EPA is not responsible for the oversight of surface features such as roads, tanks, buildings, impoundments and pipelines, Johnson said. EPA is not able to control the location or placement of an injection well, she said.
Windfall Oil & Gas President Mike Hoover said his company proposes to drill into the Chert-Oriskany formation that is 7,306 below the surface because it's been proven effective for the disposal of fluids. The facility would include steel piping, safety shutdowns and check valves to ensure the facility operates by design, he said.
"I was born and raised in this community and I intend to stay here," said Hoover. "I wouldn't propose this if I felt it would cause a health hazard."
Gabler said he supports safe and efficient development of environmental resources but asked EPA to err on the side of caution. Two-dozen homes are within the quarter mile review area of the proposed well site and rely on drinking water wells to meet their everyday needs, he said. The subsurface geology of up gradient operations could place properties and homes at the base of the hill at greater risk, he said.
The Clearfield County Commissioners are opposed to the well due to its potential to contaminate residents' water supply and its effect on their quality of life, said John Sobel, chairman. The commissioners are opposed to Windfall's operations model and believe fracking fluids may be treated and recycled in an environmentally safe manner, he said. "The EPA's monitoring requirements are self-reporting," said Sobel. "The inmates are asked to run the asylum."
Brady Township Engineer Wilson Fisher said approving the well would encourage the oil and gas industry to continue using cheaper methodologies for disposal. He said injection wells are a "primitive, archaic method for disposal."
Fisher recommended casing at least 350 feet for the first strain of the well because it's located about 150 feet above residences and 200 feet from private wells. He recommended cementing long string casing back to the surface. Fisher questioned whether or not subsurface rights would be infringed upon if migration occurred, calling it a "serious legal matter."
Charlie Muth, Brady Township Board of Supervisors chairman said he did not see a bond in the permit application stating Windfall would be 100 percent responsible for providing water to township residents on a permanent basis if it's contaminated. Muth asked if oil and gas waste could be absorbed into aging, plugged wells outside of the review area.
DuBois City Councilwoman Diane Bernardo said the city supported the proposed Injection Well Safe Water Act. As a municipal service provider, it supported the bill's 5,500 setback from public water supplies, ban on waste disposal wells in floodplains and 2,000-foot setback from trout streams and high quality/exceptional value waterways, she said. Deep mines begin in Brady Township and stretch to the area of DuBois Mall, so if a breach occurred it could reach the mall and Sandy Lick Creek, Bernardo said.
"The Northwest Clearfield County Regional Comprehensive Plan clearly identifies the Highland Street area as a village," said DuBois Planning Commission Chairwoman Nancy Moore. "The neighborhood residential designation of Highland Street, as it crosses the boundaries of the city, Sandy Township and Brady Township, has been long standing."
Resident Darlene Marshall said her private water well is located directly outside the ¼ mile review area, and she feels the injection well has the potential to contaminate it.
"My main concern is the Carlson Stewart deep well drilled into the Oriskany behind my home that constantly gives off a gas odor," said Marshall. "I believe it isn't plugged properly and its depth is drilled into the Oriskany. All of the deep gas wells in the area need to be reviewed and properly plugged."
Marshall said the Ginter and Carlson Stewart deep wells are just outside of the review area and their casings might allow oil and gas waste to enter underground sources of water. There's a total of five deep gas wells near the review area, she said. Marshall requested an extension of the ¼ mile review area.
"In the fluid injection target for this permit there are faults shown in the Onondaga Formation which lies over tip of the Oriskany Sandstone," said Marshall. "The Onondaga is the confining formation above the Oriskany/Huntersville Chert, and we have evidence of faults in this layer which would allow waste to escape into other formations and into our aquifers."
Owners of water wells within the actual zone of endangering influence have no assurance that their water supply would be replaced or remediated if the construction, operation or plugging and abandonment of the disposal injection well contaminates their water wells, resident Richard Atkinson said.
Residents have until Monday to submit testimony to EPA. Comments can be sent to Stephen Platt, Ground Water & Enforcement Branch, U.S. EPA, 1650 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.