In Ohio, Regulators Respond To Suspected Frack Waste Spewing From Unused Gas Well, Causing Fish Kill
Ohio regulators are working at a gas well that started spewing what’s believed to be brine water from fracking into the environment more than a week ago.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates the oil and gas industry, said in an email that it was notified on Sunday, January 24 that fluid, what the agency called “produced brine,” was spraying out of an oil and gas well in the Crooked Tree area near Dexter City in Noble County.
Brine is a salty byproduct of gas and oil production and can contain toxic metals and radioactive substances, according to US EPA.
A video posted to Facebook by Amber Deem shows what she says is liquid spraying out of the well and pooling on the ground. Deem told The Allegheny Front in a phone call that the Parkersburg, West Virginia company where said she works owns this well, and that it hadn’t produced gas in years. Deem has now said she is awaiting advice from her attorney before commenting further.
Chasity Schmelzenbach, director of Noble County Emergency Management, was informed by Ohio DNR about the incident at the well, which is owned by Genesis Resources LLC of Parkersburg.
On Wednesday, January 27, the state was able to contain the spray in a collection system on-site, Schmelzenbach said, but not before the suspected brine killed fish in Taylor Fork, a small tributary. She said state regulators had wildlife experts at the scene.
“The chloride counts are really high, that’s why the fish kill happened, they believe,” Schmelzenbach said. “Typically brine doesn’t kill fish, so the concentrations had to be pretty high in that small area.”
By the next day, Schmelzenbach said the state reported that the pressure of the emerging liquid had dropped.
Ohio DNR said brine continues to flow at the wellhead. So far it has collected, and disposed of more than 30,000 barrels of fluid from the site. The agency has not determined where the liquid originated, or why it suddenly started spewing from the old gas well. There have been no injuries or evacuations and the extent of impact to the environment is not yet known.
Noble County is home to around ten frack wastewater injection wells, according to Schmelzenbach and state mapping, some a few miles from the incident. In late 2019, brine from an injection well in Washington County, Ohio migrated to several producing gas wells, some more than five miles away.
Since 2017, there have been seven spills of frack waste in Noble County, including this one, according to Ohio EPA records.
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