Injection well debate continues

Heather Meade Staff Writer

January 1, 2014

DARKE COUNTY - The debate over injection wells for the disposal of hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” waste coming to Darke County is far from over.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reported in a recent meeting held in Greenville that the likelihood of class II injection wells being permited in the county is “slim”. However, the ladies of the Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition (WOFAC), who formed to bring awareness of hydraulic fracturing and it’s waste disposal, feels that the ODNR is perhaps not telling “all of the truth.”

The ladies were invited to two separate meetings held by ODNR and local community leaders, however they backed out of the first meeting due to a disagreement over attendees and the second meeting they had scheduled conflicts of which they said they informed organizers prior to the meeting being held.

“The public should also know that Anne Vehre, the chair of WOFAC, was denied access to this meeting, as were the rest of our members,” Jan Teaford, another of the chairs for WOFAC said. “…While the information given out during the ODNR’s private meeting with county officials and business people may have been correct and accurate, it did not appear to be complete. An open forum or town hall with experts on both sides of the fracking issue, discussing the issues, would be a way for the public to get questions answered and concerns addressed. The ODNR appears to have an aversion to public meetings.”

The members of WOFAC said they feel confident that their experts, who aren’t paid by oil and gas companies, gave accurate information.

“It’s not so much what they’re doing, but what they’re not doing,” said Teaford of ODNR’s practices.

“We want people to wake up and pay attention to what’s happening in eastern Ohio,” said Susan Spille, WOFAC. “…These things might not happen today, they might not happen tomorrow, but what about down the road?”

“(The) majority of people in western Ohio are totally clueless about what is happening in communities in eastern Ohio,” Jan Teaford, WOFAC, added. “We will be organizing Toxic Tours of communities in eastern Ohio so people can tour the communities, meet the people impacted by injection wells and hear their stories. The public needs to see and know the truth and this will be an excellent opportunity for anyone seeking first hand information from the people who live in impacted communities, who like us, are concerned about the future of their water, environment, safety and health.”

One of the main concerns for WOFAC is to be proactive in protecting the county, they said. One way they feel this can be done is by establishing legislation that does not allow injection wells to be placed.

“What does it hurt to have resolutions in place if it’s not coming here anyway?” Teaford questioned.

Arcanum’s mayor, Judy Foureman, said her community did just that, putting legislation into place banning injection wells within the village limits.

“Several months ago it was brought to our attention that there could be a problem with bringing gases into our county that could affect our aquifer,” Mayor Foureman commented. “There was a lot of controversy as to whether this legislation would stand up, but we decided to pass it because we felt our residents deserved the attention, if we could do something, then we did, and if we couldn’t, at least we tried…We’re just trying to protect our aquifer and the residents of our village.”

The villages of Versailles and Wayne Lakes were also believed to had adopted legislation along those same lines, but Rodd Hale, Versailles’ village administrator, and Gary Lee Young, Wayne Lakes’ mayor, said that wasn’t the case.

“The village has taken an interest in both sides of the story, we’re evaluating it, but at this time we have taken no action. At this point, we feel there are other stop gaps available to us that will keep the village in control,” Rodd Hale stated.

The debate over legislation to ban the wells is not only local, but statewide. The County Commissioners Association of Ohio has officially placed on their platform a desire that no more injection wells be allowed into Ohio, said Cheryl Subler, managing director of policy, and a Versailles native.

Currently, there are 189 Class II injection wells “capable of accepting fluid” throughout the state of Ohio and ODNR is currently reviewing seven permit applications, reported Mark Bruce, public information officer for ODNR.

Darke County Commissioner Diane Delaplane reported that her office has no intentions of passing legislation, since that is not within their jurisdiction, and at this time, “it doesn’t look like it will affect Darke County,” she noted, based on information provided by the ODNR.

More information on both sides of hydralic fracking and injection wells can be found at OhioDNR.gov or www.WOFAC.org.