Opposition to Fracking Wastewater Grows in Mansfield

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A hydraulic fracturing site in Colorado.(Photo: SenatorMarkUdall)
A hydraulic fracturing site in Colorado.(Photo: SenatorMarkUdall)

The economically struggling city of Mansfield seems poised to get a new industry; one associated with natural gas production. A company wants to dispose of fracking wastewater in deep wells in the city. But many of Mansfield’s residents don’t want them.

The rapid growth in the use of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – has meant accelerated growth in oil and natural gas production. But fracking creates an unwanted byproduct – wastewater which contains hazardous chemicals. Now a Texas company wants to build two deep injection wells – between 1,000 and 5,000 feet deep – in Mansfield to dispose of the water. It’s a prospect that has people like Mansfield city councilman Scott Hazen concerned.

“Here’s a company from Texas with no relation whatsoever to Mansfield, they’re digging a well in Pennsylvania with no relation whatsoever to Mansfield and yet somehow they believe that Mansfield, Ohio should take on the responsibility for their issue,” Hazen says.

As badly as Mansfield needs new industry, there’s not much in the deep well injection system that would help revive the economy. Steve Mobley, the president of Texas based Preferred Fluids Management, says the company would ship wastewater from the drilling fields of Pennsylvania to Mansfield. The wells would be located on five acres in the city’s airport industrial park. Mobley told The Mansfield News Journal that the wells would employ two people. But he indicated that other jobs would be created such as jobs for truck drivers. Again Mansfield Councilman Scott Hazen…

“The promise of four or five jobs isn’t necessarily worth living with a chemical dump site for hundreds of years and God knows what can happen with this thing down the road,” Hazen says.

“It’s a head-scratcher. Why can’t you resolve this there? If it’s not safe to place it in the ground in Pennsylvania what makes it safe to place it in the ground a couple of hundred miles away in Mansfield, Ohio,” Hazen says.

The company maintains injection wells are the safest way to dispose of fracking wastewater. But even residents who, in theory, support the idea wonder what would happen if there’s some sort of leak into the freshwater aquifer above. They’re even more concerned because they say they don’t know what’s in the water.

Realtor Mervin Shaffner has lived all of his 80 years in Mansfield. He says he wants to keep an open mind about the process.

“By all means if there’s natural gas down there I can’t see not using it. I just want to make sure that we don’t have the same problems that they had in the Gulf of Mexico where we’ve destroyed Mother Nature,” Shaffner says.

Last month the city council voted unanimously to turn down the proposal. But what the city does or does not want may count for nothing. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it has jurisdiction in the matter and it has approved Preferred Fluids’ applications.

“The injection company itself through its president stated that these two wells are capable of pumping 400,000 gallons of water a day. And this industry works seven days a week. So you take that times 365 days a year and that’s 1.2 billion gallons of water,” says Eric Miller.

Eric Miller is a Mansfield attorney who’s representing several groups opposed to the deep injection wells.

“Now in theory it is safe and it’s reposing in its tomb forever and it will never disturb anyone. But we aren’t convinced that that water will stay safely entombed and that it won’t find its way back into our water supply,” Miller says.

Again, Councilman Scott Hazen.

“I don’t know that it’s safe to say that it’s David versus Goliath as much as it is that there’s some 40,000 or 50,000 people that are involved in this process that apparently don’t get any say at all.”

Natural Gas production in the Utica Shale in Ohio would also generate wastewater. There’s a proposal to drill in Ashland County where Mansfield is just down the road.

Comments
  • Bobkro

    I’ll give attorney Miller the benefit of having been misquoted. But, by my calculation, 400,000 gallons a day makes for “only” 146 million gallons per year. Small comfort, indeed, if even some of it ends up ruining a natural resource.

  • Njc0825

    Absolutely not, dump it where the waste or the company came from, not a proxy. Not too much to debate if you ask me.

  • Che12

    This is unbelievable, fracking has just been proven by the EPA to release harmful chemicals into the environment, let alone BRINGING the chemicals to a site “just below the water table” hmmm, how do you get below’ the water table without drilling threw it is what I want to know. As a young Ohio citizen, who is considering moving back to Mansfield to farm, this has a major impact on my decision, and is the nail in the coffin for Mansfield economically. Who wants to move to an environmental hazardous waste land?????

    • che12

      http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/9/headlines#7

      EPA Ties Natural Gas Fracking to Water Pollution

      “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has linked the natural gas drilling practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, to polluting water supplies. On Thursday, the EPA said it had found fracking chemical compounds in the groundwater beneath a remote Wyoming community where residents have complained of contamination. The EPA has advised the residents not to drink the water. The finding could have major implications for areas around the country where gas companies are seeking state approval for massive fracking projects in shale formations.”

    • Bobkro

      The process does involve drilling through the local water table. Then, a “sleeve” is inserted through the borehole and is cemented into place to isolate the water table from whatever is going on in the borehole. That’s the concept.

      However, because cement can be infiltrated by water before (and even after) it sets, there is a not unappreciable probability that the sealing off will not be 100% effective – either at first or over the life of the well, which is essentially forever since holes do not go away. thus, if the pressure in the borehole is greater than in the surrounding aquifer – which it will be when the fracking mixture is injected – there is a possibility that some of the dissolved chemicals could find their ways into the aquifer. After that, you have the natural pressure of the gas in the borehole to consider.

      One other thing: it was a bad cement job on the Macondo well that caused the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. One hopes people haven’t forgotten that event even with all of BP’s “happy talk” commercials about booming tourism. What do you think is the likelihood of a bad cement job when you’re talking thousands of fracking sites in Ohio (or any other state) with many being developed by folks who are not much more skilled in the trade than you or I would be if we were pulled into it off the streets? With all the “tens of thousands” of new jobs the fracking industry is promising, where will it get all those experienced – and painstakingly careful – crews?