Ohio once again approving injection wells for fracking waste after earthquake scare

CLEVELAND - Following a moratorium sparked by an earthquake, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is once again approving permits for injection wells for fracking wastewater.

State officials approved four new injection wells last month. Two of the wells are located in Washington County, one in Athens County and the fourth is in Portage County.

There are currently 31 applications for injection wells pending in the state of Ohio. A state spokesperson said the permit applications are under review.

The state stopped approving new wells almost one year ago after 11 earthquakes shook the Youngstown area. Seismologists said the earthquakes were caused by a nearby injection well.

State regulators have adopted new rules for injection well construction, but environmentalists are still concerned about their safety.

"We don't feel like the regulations that have been put in place are firm enough to ensure prevention of  groundwater contamination, drinking water contamination and also future earthquakes," said Stephanie Spear, the executive director or EcoWatch, a news service devoted to environmental issues.

"There is no question that we need more info, more data, to insure the safety of people, communities and the environment. prior to moving forward with this big boom," she said.

David Hill, an Ohio oil and gas producer, who owns three injection wells in Ohio, said injections wells are safe.

"We can honestly say that the state of Ohio has the most stringent regulations oil and gas regulations in the nation."

He said injections wells are the Environmental Protection Agency's preferred method for the disposal of wastewater created during the drilling process for natural gas that's known as "fracking."

"If you have a moratorium on disposal wells, but you're continuing to drill wells, where's all this water going to go? If it's the responsible way to get rid of them, we need more of them, not less of them," he said.

There are currently 179 injection wells in operation in Ohio, according to state officials.

If all of the new applications are approved, that would add eight injection wells to Portage County. There are no injection well applications for any other Northeast Ohio counties.

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