Read the full article by Dani Kington (Athens County Independent)

“Four fracking waste injection wells in Athens County have temporarily suspended operations by order of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which says the wells present an ‘imminent danger’ to health and the environment.

On May 1, ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management ordered the suspension of a Class II injection well in Rome Township on grounds that its operator, Reliable Enterprises LLC, violated an Ohio Administrative Code section that bars operators from contaminating or polluting surface land and surface or subsurface water. In late June, three wells in Torch operated by K&H Partners were suspended on the same grounds. 

Applications for new Class II injection wells from both Reliable Enterprises and K&H were denied because of the suspensions. K&H’s application for a fourth well at its $43 million facility in Torch generated controversy when it was proposed in 2018.

Class II wells are used to contain toxic waste from oil and gas production thousands of feet underground. The wells are intended to isolate the waste water, known as brine, from groundwater.

However, the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management found that waste fluid injected into the three K&H wells had spread at least 1.5 miles underground and was rising to the surface through oil and gas production wells in Athens and Washington counties.

Waste injected into the Rome Township well spread to oil and gas production wells as far as two miles away, also in both Athens and Washington counties, the division said.

The suspension orders for both K&H and Reliable Enterprises say the wells cannot resume operation until ‘the conditions that caused the suspension have been corrected.’

K&H fought its order in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, but the court found that it did not have jurisdiction in the case — the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission did. The commission was already considering the company’s appeal, which remains pending.

Reliable Enterprises did not appeal its suspension order, according to the commission’s docket, which the Independent obtained through a records request. 

Two Class II wells in Noble County were also suspended earlier this year over threats to local water supplies. The order suspending those wells reported issues with brine flowing to the surface since 2010 and referenced multiple instances of uncontrolled brine release that required corrective action from the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. 

A 2021 incident cost the division $1.2 million to repair. In January of this year, another uncontrolled brine release occurred at one of the wells. The suspension order for the Noble County wells came days later. 

Threats to water

Although the composition of fracking fluid is generally considered a ‘trade secret,’ monitoring suggests the waste is highly hazardous.

Data released by the Pennsylvania-based watchdog group FracTracker shows that at least two of the three K&H wells in question have been injected with waste containing polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. PFAS are linked to birth defects and increased risk of cancer.

ODNR data published by FracTracker shows fracking waste in Ohio contains radioactive waste as well. The radioactive compounds that ODNR found in fracking waste can remain in the environment for thousands of years and cause bone, liver and breast cancer.

Mark Bruce, then an administrative officer with the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, told the Independent in August that ‘ODNR has received no evidence or reports that any groundwater, surface water, or water wells have been impacted’ by fracking waste that migrated from the K&H wells in Torch. Bruce has since left his position.

The absence of evidence showing impacts on drinking water doesn’t necessarily mean that no impact has occurred, said Ted Auch, midwest program director for FracTracker. Auch is particularly concerned for Athens County residents who rely on well water, who may have limited ability to monitor possible contamination.

Likewise, Julie Weatherington-Rice, a hydrogeologist and Columbus-based senior scientist at Bennett and Williams Environmental Consultants, said the brine migration incident ‘certainly’ threatens water supplies. 

‘Yes, we can lose public water supplies; yes, we can lose private water supplies,’ Weatherington-Rice said. She added that it is difficult to know how far the impact could extend in any specific incident of brine migration.

Bruce said residents can report suspected impacts to the ODNR by calling (614) 265-6922, adding that the department will investigate reports.

In addition to disposal through injection, fracking waste in Ohio is also used to salt roadways despite its radioactivity. Advocates, including the Ohio Brine Task Force, say this poses a grave environmental threat.”…