Opponents Voice Concerns over Proposed Injection Well

 

(Steven McDole)

LUTHERSBURG – Hundreds of opponents attended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) public hearing at the Brady Township Community Center on Monday night to object the proposed disposal injection well near Highland Street Extension in Brady Township.

Windfall Oil & Gas Inc. of Falls Creek has submitted its permit for a Class II-D injection well, Zellman #1. It’s one of six classes of injection wells that are categorized under the EPA jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, according to Karen Johnson, UIC program manager and chief of Groundwater Enforcement.

She said the EPA is not responsible for monitoring surface water events. She said it’s only tasked with monitoring underground drinking water safety.

Johnson also said the EPA didn’t have jurisdiction over some topics that might arise during the public hearing. She said those fell under the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and state laws and or local laws. She said those topics included truck traffic and noise; injected materials reaching the surface; the impact on roadways and on schools outside of the underground drinking water supplies; and the location of the proposed injection well.

Johnson said the EPA had stricter regulations for injection wells than the state’s regulations applied to the Marcellus Shale production wells. She said the EPA exercised precautions and requirements regarding injection wells, which included:

  • constructing several layers of casing around the injection well that have different depths;
  • conducting constant mechanical integrity testing 24 hours per day and seven days per week. This testing can be remotely monitored by the EPA;
  • calculating pressure limits per the fluid and depth of injection to avoid fracturing and creating cracks for the brine liquid to escape through; and
  • capping old gas wells within the pressure affected area for one-quarter mile, so that the injection well does not force fluids up within those wells.

When asked if any injection wells had ever leaked in Pennsylvania, Johnson said she had been with the EPA since it was first established in the commonwealth. In 30 years, she said there haven’t been any leaks.

When a countering statement arose regarding the Irvin Well, she said it had received the maximum fine allowed and a six-month shutdown for not reporting a mechanical integrity failure. She said it did not leak, and its fluids were recycled back down into the injection well.

When asked about the injection well causing earthquakes in Youngstown, OH, Johnson said those resulted after the injection well had been over-drilled 3,000 feet into different strata of the earth. She said instead of filling in the excess depth, they continued to inject liquid at a pressure and at a depth not calculated for. She said Ohio’s new regulations are now closer to those that have already been implemented by the EPA in Pennsylvania.

Mike Hoover of Windfall Oil & Gas Inc. presented its proposed injection well process. He said they plan on trucking in the brine liquid and to fill stainless steel tanks on-site. He said the water will be pumped from those tanks underground. Hoover said that cement containment catches capable of holding 1.5 times the amount of maximum brine liquid will be on-site.

“I was born and raised in this community. I wouldn’t purpose this if I thought it was a hazard,” said Hoover. The crowd immediately began shouting “Falls Creek,” and said he was not from Brady Township but from a neighboring community located about 12 miles away.

Opponents voiced the following concerns at the hearing.

  • A large amount of people and Brady Township obtain water from wells in the area of the proposed injection well. A few are located within the quarter-mile high pressure zone that is supposed to have defunct gas wells plugged off.
  • Two mine shifts are located near the proposed injection well and eject water into Sandy Lick Creek near the DuBois Mall.
  • Fracturing production wells exist along the edges of the proposed injection well area.
  • Two fault lines cross areas next to the proposed injection well.
  • Old gas wells from the 1950’s and 1960’s are in the surrounding area of the proposed injection well. Some are located within the quarter-mile area.
  • The potential for the proposed injection well to be detrimental to property values.
  • The proposed injection well to be located within a close proximity to the Oklahoma Elementary School.
  • The proposed injection well to be located within a close proximity of the DuBois City’s water reservoir.
  • The potential for the Brady Township drinking water supply to become tainted.
  • That protective casings aren’t long enough and don’t account for the injection well being located on a 150-foot high hill, where there are homes with water wells at its base.
  • The lack of a one-mile diameter topographical map being included with the permit.
  • Brine waters additives, such as corrosive inhibitor, change them from a production well byproduct for which the permit is for.

Johnson said the permit’s public comment period had been extended to one-week after the meeting. Any additional written comments can be sent to S. Stephen Platt at the following address:

S. Stephen Platt

Ground Water & Enforcement Branch (3Wp22)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1650 Arch Street

Philadelphia, PA 19103

plat.steve@epa.gov

 

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