Fracking worries Crestline residents
By Sarah Einselen
CRESTLINE—Concern over Crestline’s water supply dominated a fracking forum held Thursday night, Feb. 9, at the village library. Bill Baker, an Occupy Mansfield activist and opponent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Richland County, provided information and led discussion for about an hour in the village that relies on Ontario’s water supply for its needs. He led a four-hour series of discussions in Mansfield last month.
“We have to make people aware of what is going on,” said Crestline mayor Dave Sharrock, who invited Baker to speak. Crestline’s sister-cities Ontario and Mansfield are working hard to block fracking around those locales, Sharrock said, and Crestline and Mansfield are both working on municipal ordinances to try to limit fracking.
However, it’s an issue that falls under state Department of Natural Resources jurisdiction, so municipalities and counties can’t legally prohibit fracking, said Baker. He encouraged the 25 people who attended the forum to contact their village, county and state legislators to make sure they were aware that citizens are concerned.
Fracking is a process by which oil companies pump a water-based solution into porous bedrock deep in the earth’s crust to free the oil and gas that’s trapped in the rock. It’s often done using horizontal wells, mile-long tubes through the bedrock that the water mix is pumped through.
“Under very high pressure, a combination of water, sand and chemicals is sent deep into the earth to create cracks and fissures in the shale rock,” according to a StateImpact Pennsylvania background article on fracking. “Those fissures are held open by the sand, allowing the natural gas to flow through those cracks, into the well bore and up to the surface.”
After the water mix is used for fracking, the leftover waste has to be disposed of, and in many cases it is dumped into an injection well under high pressure.
Some concerns voiced at Thursday’s forum included whether fracking was causing the recent earthquakes near Youngstown, whether the practice had contaminated groundwater in Pennsylvania and New York and whether many wells had been drilled in Crestline’s vicinity.
“There’s a lot of drilling going on, not a lot of injection yet,” Baker said. Driling is especially predominant in Morrow County but three wells had been drilled within 15 miles of Crestline.
Some communities in Pennsylvania have blamed fracking for contaminating their water supply—and the Environmental Protection Agency has begun trucking clean water to Dimock, Pa., after methane got into the water supply there, according to a ProPublica report dated Jan. 20. It has not determined how the methane got there but local and state leaders blame nearby gas wells.
Geologists have linked the minor Youngstown earthquakes that happened between Christmas and New Year’s to the area’s injection wells, according to a an article from Scientific American. The wastewater disposed of in the injection wells “can act as lubricants between two abutting rock faces, helping them to suddenly slip along the boundary,” according to the article.
A problem with holding energy companies accountable for possible contamination, Baker said, is that most landowners don’t test their water for contaminants before drilling begins, so if water does get polluted it’s hard to prove when or how it became contaminated.
Plus, oil companies form subsidiary limited liability companies for the various wells and take out insurance for each one. If one well is compromised and payout is required for trucking in fresh water or paying fines, the multiple-LLC structure keeps that from affecting other wells.
“That $3 million they have for insurance would not even put a dent in the cost if something happened to Crestline’s wells,” Baker said.
Fracking has been practiced in this area for about six decades, said Baker, and was started even earlier.
“They would drop dynamite down into the well and break the rock up to encourage stronger gas flow,” Baker said, when fracking was first tried in the 1800s. High-pressure hydraulic fracking became prevalent about eight years ago, when technological advances made it lucrative.
Nobody’s thought much about it until recently, Baker said, because it took five or six years for people to get sick from fracking contaminants.
“We need to ban it,” he said. “It’s evident that it’s hazardous at this time.”