September 2, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
70°F

Portage County produces most fracking waste

Booming energy production in shale formations has made a Northeast Ohio county the top location in the state for underground injection of drilling wastes.

Portage County, home of Kent State University, had enough drilling wastes injected deep into the ground in 2012 to fill a train of tanker cars that would stretch nearly 37 miles, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Sunday.

Out-of-state shipments account for 57.6 percent of the waste going into Ohio’s injection wells, up from 54 percent the previous year.

In 2012, 6 million barrels came from Ohio drillers and 8.2 million barrels from other states, mostly Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Portage County’s injections delivered brine and other wastes into 15 active wells, nearly two-thirds of it from out of state. The volume grew 18.7 percent from 2011. Portage County took in 16.6 percent of the drilling waste injected below ground in Ohio, the newspaper reported.

The waste come from the boom in horizontal fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations. The wells are extracting huge quantities of natural gas and oil.

But critics fear such wells are a threat to underground aquifers that provide drinking water. Some Ohio communities and grass-roots groups have called for a ban on injection wells.

The state and the energy industry say pressurized injection wells are safe, not a problem and the best way to safely get rid of such wastes.

“Ohio has the toughest injection rules in the United States. Hands down, we’re more stringent than the federal government,” said state geologist Tom Tomastik at a recent public meeting in Portage County.

Statewide, Washington County in southeast Ohio ranked No. 2 for injections followed by Trumbull and Ashtabula counties in Northeast Ohio and Noble County adjacent to Washington County.

Portage County sits at the northern edge of the Clinton sandstone that was extensively drilled in the 1970s and 1980s, said geologist Jeffrey Dick of Youngstown State University.

That proximity to companies drilling vertical-only wells decades ago resulted in Northeast Ohio becoming the center of injection in Ohio, he said.

The sharp growth last year is troubling to activist Teresa Mills of Columbus, fracking coordinator for the Buckeye Forest Council.

And Melanie Houston of the Ohio Environmental Council said “it’s no secret that Ohio is becoming a dumping ground for other states.”