Residents Continue Opposition of Proposed Disposal Injection Well

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CLEARFIELD – Two Brady Township residents continued voicing opposition to a proposed disposal injection well being drilled in their neighborhood during the public comment period at Tuesday’s Clearfield County Commissioner’s meeting.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Windfall Oil & Gas of Falls Creek proposed a frack/brine fluid disposal injection well to be located on Highland Street Extension in Brady Township.  Frank Zelman is the landowner and lease holder with Windfall Oil & Gas.

In Pennsylvania, a Class 2 disposal injection well requires a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Underground Injection Control permit. It also requires a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) well drilling permit.

On Feb. 14, the EPA issued Windfall Oil & Gas its UIC permit for its proposed disposal injection well. However, Windfall Oil & Gas still cannot begin drilling until the EPA finalizes the UIC permit after an appeals period and it also receives its DEP drilling permit.

Resident Marianne Atkinson said Windfall Oil & Gas has proposed a disposal injection well approximately two miles from DuBois. This proposed disposal injection well, she said, was the 10th to receive its EPA permit in western Pennsylvania but would be the only one in a highly residential neighborhood.

The proposed well location, she said, is 850 feet from her private water well and even closer to others. If drilled, she said the well would sit atop a hill on Highland Street Extension; several private drinking water wells sit at the bottom of that hill.

According to Atkinson, the EPA erred, stating there aren’t any private drinking water wells in the quarter-mile area of review. However, she had a map showing 18 private drinking water wells within the area of review, including 14 within 1,000 feet of the proposed disposal injection well site.

She and her husband, Rick Atkinson, said if they cannot “stop the well permit,” they would like to see changes to Act 13. If drilled, she said Brady Township residents would need more protection just like those who live near Marcellus Shale drilling sites.

Marianne Atkinson said she would like to see operators of disposal injection wells to be presumed liable if private drinking water becomes contaminated. Also, she felt people who live nearby should have the right to call the DEP in to investigate if they suspect their drinking water has become contaminated.

If drilled, Rick Atkinson said he wanted the five or six old production wells within the area used to monitor the disposal injection well. Then, they would be alerted to any dangers or threats to their private drinking water supplies.

When asked by Commissioner John A. Sobel, Marianne Atkinson said she’d spoken to Brady Township officials who doubted they would pursue an appeal. She and her husband, however, planned to pursue the appeals process and had retained counsel to do so.

Marianne Atkinson believed it would be “influential” if the county filed an appeal. County Solicitor Kim Kesner explained that she had presented issues that could be raised in an appeal. Based on information provided to him, Kesner said the county couldn’t raise issues in an appeal that were raised by other parties.

Commissioner Mark B. McCracken responded, saying he felt they needed to speak with the governor and legislators to expand laws to deal with issues related to disposal injection wells. He also suggested investigating the DEP drilling permit process.

So far as the DEP permit, Commissioner Joan Robinson-McMillen advised Marianne and Rick Atkinson to explore the DEP Web site. The DEP, she said, regularly posts up-to-date information regarding matters under their consideration. Rick Atkinson then noted he was most concerned about when drilling would possibly begin, so that he could have his private drinking water tested again.

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