Community members voice strong opinions at Ohio EPA public hearing

| October 22, 2018

An unidentified member of the community displays a sign at the Ohio EPA public hearing held Thursday evening, Oct. 18 in McKinley Auditorium at Coshocton High School. The hearing was held in regard to the proposed conversion of two Class II injection wells at Buckeye Brine to Class I non-hazardous wells.

COSHOCTON – The Ohio EPA gave a brief presentation Thursday evening, Oct. 18 in McKinley Auditorium at Coshocton High School about the proposed conversion of Class II injection wells at the Buckeye Brine location to Class I injection wells. However, the community came out in opposition to this proposal and let their voices be heard. Tensions ran high as members of Coshocton Environmental and Community Awareness, Inc. (CECA) and other members of the Coshocton community demanded answers as to why Coshocton had been chosen as a location for Class I injection disposal and what safety regulations and standards had been put in place to ensure the safety of Coshocton County citizens.

Jess Stotsberry, geologist who has been with the Ohio EPA for 19 years, gave a presentation on converting the Class II wells into Class I wells. He stated that two out of the three existing Class II underground injection wells are proposed to be converted to a Class I injection well. Class II injections are deep well injections of oil and gas-produced waste that is regulated by Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A Class I injection well is a deep well injection of industrial waste that is regulated by the Ohio EPA.

Buckeye Brine sits on 20 acres at the intersection of US Highway 36 and Airport Road. The well on the west side, well three, and the south edge well, well one, are both proposed to be converted to a Class I injection well. The north-east side well will remain a Class II injection well.

Stotsberry said the application to convert the wells to a Class I injection well must meet the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Applicants must demonstrate no unreasonable risk of seismic activity, geological fractures, and contamination of drinking water. Ohio EPA also requires a seismic reflection survey, which is an x-ray of the grounds that show if there is a risk of earthquakes in the area. Stotsberry also stated that Buckeye Brine did 18 months of seismic risk testing independently with no activity recorded. He also said there has been no seismic activity reported in Coshocton County or surrounding areas.

Stotsberry then talked about how each well is constructed and the safety requirements for all Class I wells in the state of Ohio. He also stated that Ohio EPA will conduct two inspections a year of the facility where they will test the wells, monitor the ground water, monitor any erosion, and conduct waste analysis.

Stotsberry stated that the injection wells at Buckeye Brine have a 10,000 barrel flow rate, which is equivalent to 12.71 million gallons of waste.

Stotsberry ended the presentation by saying that the Ohio EPA will offer financial assurance, a cement top for each well, and an auto shutdown system if something should go wrong.

The community has until Friday, Oct. 26 to make public comments to oppose or endorse the proposed conversion. The Ohio EPA will consider and respond to all questions and concerns. They also stated that community members have 30 days to appeal the decision taken by the Ohio EPA Director, whether they approve or deny the permit.

Ohio EPA then opened the discussion for questions. In answer to questions posed, the Ohio EPA stated that they only offer permits through the construction phase of the project as well as groundwater protection and that any questions regarding safety and training for workers is regulated by the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA). When asked what qualifications and training the operators of Class I injection wells complete, Ohio EPA stated that they require applicants to give a report of any previous experience with Class I injection wells and maintenance, but that no form of specific training is required in operating Class I injection wells.

When asked if they monitor the injection pressure, Stotsberry said that the EPA has data coming to them in real time, but they do not actively monitor it but use the data to acquire their monthly report.

Stotsberry was asked about the possibility of a ground spill and what if anything the Ohio EPA would do to assist with the cleanup. He responded that the Ohio EPA has a 24-hour emergency response team and that they would work on the spill with the responsible parties, but stated that the situation has not yet occurred in Ohio.

Stotsberry then gave some reasons why wells have been plugged and are no longer in use. Some businesses have moved their business to out-of-country locations and some wells were plugged due to inability to continue getting fluids in the well. Stotsberry was asked who would monitor the wells should Buckeye Brine close down sometime in the future. Stotsberry said that scenario has never occurred but that procedures for closure of the wells are in place.

They also said that the federal EPA has been made aware of this project.

The public hearing commenced at approximately 7:30 p.m. More than 30 people testified and were allowed a maximum of four minutes, although some went over that time for several minutes.

“It’s a disgrace that our local and state officials look us in the eye and tell us half-truths like all is well, there will be no problem with these Class I injection wells,” said Lynn Leach, the first person to speak.

The next to speak was Phyllis Glazer from Winona, TX who lived to tell about her experience after a Class II injection well in her community was converted to a Class I.

Tim Kettler, co-founder of Coshocton Environmental and Community Awareness Inc. was next to speak.

“There are numerous blatant defects with these permits,” said Kettler. “We don’t make a living or make pass time out of protesting. We are students, teachers, business people, we are a community.”

Pete Madson, a retired teacher and coach from Coshocton High School, also spoke in opposition of the proposed permit.

“The children are the future of this county and state of Ohio and I am here to speak for their future,” he said.

Marie Madson also spoke during the public hearing and talked about the beauty of Coshocton County with the majestic trees, ponds and lakes, and birds chirping.

“We sit on our porch and savor the solitude of the beauty of a Coshocton day,” she said. “We are shaken to our soul about the chance of them no longer being there.”

Ken M. Brode asked the question during the hearing, “Why should we have to defend the very ground we live on by our own state?”

Roberta Kettler received a standing ovation when she read a resolution signed by 1,900 people in the county who are opposed to the injection well.

“Isn’t it our human right to have clean water?” said Dana Kittler. “Who protects us of our rights? Isn’t that your job?” she asked the Ohio EPA.

Barb Teti said, “Another concern that I have is the ground below us. My understanding is that the geology of the area renders this proposed reclassification problematic. Three miles from the injection facility is a known fault which the mix of injected fluids may impact. What absolute guarantees of safety will be offered to the citizenry and in what matter will these guarantees be backed up? I am concerned by the personal financial impact this reclassification may impose upon me and the other residents of Ohio. Will my tax dollars be spent recovering the environmental assault this business may cause?”

Anne Cornell spoke during the public hearing and said, “I am really surprised this evening at the lack of rigor on the Ohio EPA’s part and really quite proud of my community for the in-depth research and scientific thinking and logical presentation of concerns and science. . . I don’t think we’ve been treated with respect. If that’s truly what you believe we are – an underserved, under-funded community, then you should be protecting us more.”

Holli Rainwater said, “I would rather see waste disposed of through a treatment plant where the material and treatment is visible, monitored, tested, regulated and controlled. Injection deep below the surface is not visible. Little data can be collected and therefore monitoring and controls are not tried and true methods. With very little that can be monitored, very little can be regulated on a part of the earth we know very little about. This material will not just disappear because we don’t see it.”

Kevin Rainwater spoke next, “My comment is just that from what I’ve heard from the presentation, it leaves me not only cynical but skeptical. My confidence is in this group of people, and the fact that the parking lot was full when we drove up tonight. The people are sacred and the children of this community are sacred. We are on the side of children, I have given my life to them and I wish you would to.”

Roxanne Groff, a resident of Athens County and the chair of the Buckeye Environmental Network,   suggested that everyone with questions ensure that those questions are put on the record and the Ohio EPA must answer those questions. “It is your right in the due process.”

Dr. Jeff Poland, speaking on behalf of the Coshocton County Board of Health said, “I have been asked to present a paper that we do not want a conversion from Class II to Class I wells. No core samples were collected – the ODNR failed. The only baseline data has already been skewed.”

Coshocton County Commissioner Gary Fischer said, “When this was brought to our office back in June we started making inquiries of the Ohio EPA, we sent letters to the Ohio EPA, we sent letters to ODNR, we also sent letters to Representative Householder and Senator Hottinger. All those are documented. We made a phone call today to the Environmental Reviews Appeals Commission office. We were told today that we could file an appeal after the permit is granted. We also need to be told what the appeals process is.

“What does this public hearing mean tonight? The Commissioner’s office takes all concerns of our citizens seriously. We had a petition submitted to us the other day with 1,900 signatures. Those 1,900 people are citizens of Coshocton County and they represent a segment of Coshocton County. We feel our obligation, although we are not legislative nor are we regulatory – our position is to represent those citizens. We will submit that petition on behalf of those 1,900 citizens. We operate on facts. We did our due diligence on this.”

Dane Parker, who cited his background as a Senior Research scientist at Goodyear for 38 years, said, “During my career I worked with many chemical vendors. Even degree people can screw up at a chemical plant. Training is crucial but it is not foolproof.”

Teresa Mills, of Grove City, Ohio, who is the Executive Director of the Buckeye Environmental Network, said, “I have been doing this for 30 years and I am more confused now than before I ever picked up the permit application.”

Emily Graves held up a picture of her two grandchildren and said, “They love our farm. Our farm is located in Canal Lewisville so we are a neighbor to the injection wells. Our family has owned our farm since the 1860’s and we want to pass it on to the next generation. So my grandchildren will inherit this property someday and I want it to be an environmentally-safe place for them to live and raise their families. In closing please consider the personal side of this issue. It’s about our children and their future.”

Kristopher Weiss, Public Involvement Coordinator for the Ohio EPA closed the hearing at 9:30 p.m.

The timeframe for people to submit comments will end as of the close of business on Friday, October 26. Public comments can be sent to [email protected] or Ohio EPA, Division of Drinking and Groundwaters, Attn: UIC Unit Supervisor, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus OH 43216-1049.

Editor’s note: State Representative Larry Householder has formally asked the Ohio EPA to convene a second public hearing in Coshocton before making any decision on Buckeye Brine’s conversion application per a press release submitted to The Beacon on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 and State Senator Jay Hottinger (31st District) submitted a letter dated October 19, 2018 to Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio EPA, asking for a 30 day extension on the review process of Buckeye Brine’s application to convert two of their Class II wells to Class I wells to extend the public comment period one more week. The comments and quotes in this article are a sample from the speakers and the contents of the meeting.

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