Shale Drilling Destroys Ohio Regional Water Resources

Press Release, FreshWater Accountability Project (www.FWAP.org), September 2014

Ohioans are beginning to realize that unconventional shale drilling uses a great deal of water, permanently ruining it for other uses.  But what they may not know is fracked gas and oil wells in Ohio are turning out to be less productive over time, with more water needed so the effects of water usage are rising. Now, each time a Utica well is fracked in Ohio, over seven million gallons of water is needed on average per well. This volume of water needed is steadily increasing as the long drilled laterals increase in length. As more and more water becomes necessary per unit of gas or oil produced, the cumulative effects are being seen. Very little water is recycled by the industry for re-use; most fracked water is lost to the watershed and beyond forever as it is turned into concentrated toxic and radioactive waste.

The numbers are staggering. With only 691 of the wells issued drilling permits by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) fracked so far and many more permitted and projected, the water loss to the Ohio River basin is expected to be 18.5 billion gallons in the next 5 years. There are few regulatory protections for the water in Ohio. ODNR requires only reporting of water withdrawals; the agency does not assess the effects of the loss of water, and so does not intervene to protect from environmental and public health impacts of this level of water consumption or contamination by industry waste.

The industry also tends to underestimates water usage in its reporting to the ODNR. For instance, in Harrison County, the actual amount used for fracking was over 700 million gallons compared to the estimated 588 million gallons.  As of 9-6-14 there were 50 wells being drilled, 63 wells drilled, and 82 more wells permitted, so water usage will more than double in Harrison county.

Harrison is not the worst county. In Noble County, over 200 million gallons were used in just one year. There are still 53 permits for just one driller awaiting approval in this same county.  A single well used 22,139,168 gallons of water to frack.

Paul Rubin, a New York hydrogeologist and environmental consultant warns, “Public waters should not be provided to the gas industry.  The concept that this is a ‘beneficial use’ of these waters is seriously flawed.  Any use of public waters that will assuredly lead to the long-term contamination of the state’s aquifers, waterways, and reservoirs and should not be advocated in any way whatsoever. Public health is a major and very real concern.” Rubin’s warnings are supported by depictions of migratory pathways of frack fluids intersecting with groundwater flows. These figures show that groundwater and gas industry contaminants steadily move toward our major aquifers and water supplies, often well below thousands of feed of bedrock.

Steady migration of toxic fracking and wastewater fluids from gas and injection wells threaten groundwater and surface water as well, especially those directly under reservoirs and valley bottoms where major population centers have developed. Reservoirs such as Clendening, Leesville, Piedmont and Seneca Lakes leased for fracking by the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) and proposed fracking under the Ohio River could cause widespread toxic contamination of public drinking water sources over time – not only with toxic chemicals and radioactivity, but from the concentrated salts contained in frack waste.

The impact is cumulative as the frack waste disposal problem grows. So far, 221,732,322 gallons of frack waste generated from within Ohio and 191,299,374 gallons from out of state have been disposed of, making a total of 413,031,696 gallons of toxic and radioactive frack waste that has been injected into Ohio’s underground geology.  Toxins within these fluids will contaminate the water we and our grandchildren require far into the future.

Concerns that some of this toxic waste from fracking and injection wells will migrate into groundwater and surface waters used for drinking water are well founded. Just recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released information documenting 243 cases of water well contamination caused by fracking with many others still under investigation.

Whether from leaking gas wells due to faulty casings or fracking itself, facts are the process of horizontal hydrofracking does cause water contamination. The public should not be confused by semantics in published reports potentially intended to mislead by differentiating only the moment of fracking itself that causes the pollution.

A recent peer-reviewed report stated, “Noble gas isotope and hydrocarbon data link four contamination clusters to gas leakage from intermediate-depth strata through failures of annulus cement, three to target production gases that seem to implicate faulty production casings, and one to an underground gas well failure.” Another report concluded, “Even in a best-case scenario, an individual well would potentially release at least 200 cubic meters of contaminated fluids.”

According to Ted Auch, PhD, FracTracker Ohio Program Coordinator, “What we are seeing already is a trend that can result in devastating impacts upon entire watersheds. First, already fragile ecosystems will be impacted very detrimentally, and if this trend continues according to the projections of the fracking deployment in Ohio, human and other industries’ needs for water will most likely be severely affected. We predict a regional water crisis at this rate of destruction.”

Freshwater usage is increasing. According to Dr. Auch, “The increase in lateral length accounts for 40% of the increase in freshwater consumption, so now freshwater is up from 4.88 million gallons average per Utica well fracked to 7.27 million gallons today. Additional water is used to increase well production. As water use goes up, the cost of this valuable resource consumed by fracking is a very small fraction of the cost of the entire fracking operation. Water is a cheap way to increase well production – a disposable commodity used by the industry without constraint that in no way reflects its real worth.”

There is a very limited, finite amount of freshwater on earth and not enough of it to be destroyed in such quantities. Lea Harper, Managing Director of FreshWater Accountability Project (www.FWAP.org) continues to track the changes to the waterways in Southeast Ohio as the impacts from frack. The cumulative effect of degraded water resources because of such extreme loss of water to a watershed can be projected from what we see already. Pipelines are proposed to withdraw from reservoirs and the Ohio River to extract millions of gallons of freshwater every day for fracking. Plus the remaining water is under threat from future contamination due to leaking wells, chemical migration in groundwater, spills and deliberate dumping by the industry. Unless action is taken now to protect Ohio’s valuable freshwater supplies, costs will go up, and people will get sick. This is already occurring in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Toledo Attorney Terry Lodge added: “What we are seeing already is a trend that can devastate entire watersheds in Ohio and elsewhere. If fracking continues as projected, all other uses for water – for industry, agriculture, support of life – will likely be harmed. What people may not realize is that fracking destroys water for good. Billions and billions of gallons of clean freshwater removed from the water cycle forever and turned into contaminated waste. Remaining water can be poisoned beyond any ability to remediate.”

“This water can never be replaced. When it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”

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Private Water Wells Under Threat in Doddridge County, WV

by Duane Nichols on September 30, 2014

WV DEP issues notice of violation over Marcellus gas drilling incident

From an Article by Kim Freda, State Journal, September 29, 2014

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Antero Resources for a well drilling incident that could have released methane gas into 12 personal water wells.

The WV-DEP was contacted by Antero Resources about 9 AM September 24th after Antero drilled a well and came in contact with an adjacent well on Antero’s Primm Pad. The well and pad are located on Oxford Road, in the West Union area of Doddridge County.

While drilling the “Stella 1h” well, which was just approved for drilling September 1st, Antero came in contact with the “Callie 2h” well at about 621 feet in depth, according to information from the WV-DEP. While the extent of damage is currently unknown, methane gas was released from the Callie 2h well and it is possible that freshwater could be impacted by the gas.

Three water wells closest in proximity to the Primm Pad have been disconnected. Antero provided water buffaloes, which are large water storage containers, for the area while testing continues on the wells, said David Belcher, Assistant Chief of the West Virginia Office of Oil and Gas.

Nine additional wells could be impacted and have been provided with drinking water while testing is ongoing. The 12 residences with water wells that could be affected are in the unincorporated community of Joy, on Fred’s Run Road, Belcher said. The producing well, Callie 2h, was turned off with WV-DEP supervision following the incident, Belcher said.    

The Office of Oil and Gas cited Antero with a cease and desist order, a notice of violation, along with a pollution violation citing methane gas. Antero is required to gain control of the well, demonstrate the ability to safely resume operations and must contain any methane on site.  Belcher said Antero is cooperating with the Office of Oil and Gas and is continuing to monitor the situation and work with well owners. The WV-DEP also has personnel present to monitor the situation, he said.

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Pipeline Drilling Mud Spill on Sunoco Project in Mingo Creek Area

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