Oil-gas boom spawns Harrison safety talks

CADIZ – Harrison County Sheriff Ronald J. Myers conducted the third monthly Shale Safety meeting as a forum for local government officials, representatives of oil and gas companies and law enforcement personnel to get together and discuss the issues arising from the boom of gas related industry in the county.

During the meeting at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz Monday, Lorna Bower of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency announced that her agency would be conducting an exercise Friday evening, April 5 in Scio.

“The first step when developing an emergency response plan is to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency scenarios,” said Bower. “This is not meant to frighten anyone, it is designed to develop an understanding of what can happen, which will enable us to determine resource requirements and to develop plans and procedures to prepare in the event of an actual emergency situation.”

“According to Bower, this will be a full scale exercise with evacuations by school bus and public transportation to the Jewett First Station where the Red Cross will be stationed, “We will be including local fire and EMS which will respond to accidents and injuries as if there was an actual leak, we want to make it as real as possible.”

The exercise will be held at 6 p.m. in the village and spectators are welcome, as well as volunteers. Bower can be contacted at the Harrison County Emergency Management office, 740-942-3922.

“This is our first exercise,” said Bower, “We plan to have many more in the future at the various potential risk areas in the county so we can address as many risks as possible.”

Sgt. Greg McCutcheon of the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported that last Tuesday Ohioans and environmental groups including Earth First! and Appalachia Resist had disrupted operations at Greenhunter Water’s hydraulic fracturing or fracking wastewater storage site along the Ohio River near New Matamoras.

Around two dozen officers representing the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the New Matamoras Police Department worked to contain traffic and the crowd of 100 protesters.

“Ten people were arrested during a Tuesday anti-fracking protest including a man who spent nearly five hours chained to a 30-foot-tall structure he erected which he had wired to a water truck and a fence inside f the facility,” Sheriff Myers reported.

Sgt. McCutcheon reported that there was no violence at this protest but some other protests in Pennsylvania had been violent, including an incident in PA where a homemade explosive device had been planted near a pipeline.

“We have no reports of any violence so far but it is probably coming,” Sgt. McCutcheon said. “We are asking that everyone be alert and aware and report anyone out of place at your facility.”

“We want to emphasize that you should not touch any suspicious object, stay clear and make contact,” Sgt. McCutcheon warned that some of these groups are considered domestic terrorists or vandals.

The group called last Tuesday’s action “the latest in a series of escalated acts of resistance to destructive extractive industries.”

“These are fringe groups and our Central Intelligence Unit is monitoring them,” Sgt. McCutcheon added. “If you see something we suggest you call 911 and they will contact the proper authorities.”

Sheriff Myers reported that the updated total for one-way traffic into the Scio construction site for Atlas Gas was up to 135,182 with 38,280 vehicles passing the speed sign up to last Saturday’s count.

The sheriff also reported that there had been one vendor related accident on SR 151 outside of Scio in which a truck hauling gravel had overturned in a ditch.

“I do not have the report from the highway patrol, but we suspect speed and an overloaded truck were factors,” Myers said. “The driver did not have a valid operators license.”

Jim Albright of the Harrison County Highway Dept. told the Sheriff he had to “slam on the brakes,” to avoid a collision with a truck which ran a stop sign at the intersection of Cr 44 and CR 17.

According to Albright the first truck in a small convoy of three stopped at the intersection but the two trucks following did not heed the stop sign.

The sheriff reported that a full-time deputy was patrolling Scio 6 days a week which was being funded by Momentum and in addition the Ohio Highway Patrol was stepping up their weight and inspection presence in the county.

Myers stated that his department had issued several citations and Sgt. McCutcheon said that the Motor Vehicle Enforcement units had “put a lot of trucks out of service.”

In addition the sheriff reported that there had been numerous speed complaints on trucks, trucks driving vehicles off the roadways and water trucks driving through Deersville.

Representatives from the local gas companies in attendance stated they had contacted all of their vendors but stated that there were limits to their influence over drivers and therefore it was a difficult issue to address. They renewed their pledges to continue and address the issues with contract haulers and all concurred it was an ongoing priority for all of their firms.

The company representatives suggested that residents or drivers get the name and or truck number of the vehicle and make note of the time and location of the incident and report it to the sheriff or one of the company representatives by telephone.

Lee Ann Wainwright of the Appalachian/Michigan Strategic Business Unit for Chevron North America gave her direct number for any complaints about vendors at Chevron sites: 877-847-8408.

The sheriff also reported that the guard rail at the intersection of SR 646 and U.S. 250 was severely damaged from the super-loads trying to navigate the corner

“We need to address this issue with the upcoming tourist season and the potential that a vehicle could go straight through into the water,” said Myers. “I feel it is not worth someone’s life going down into the lake.”

Anna M. Kuzmich, P.E. statewide shale coordinator for the Ohio Department of Transportation and District 11 representative Jim Zitko said that the guardrail had been nit a least four times since they last repaired it, “The intersection and the road were just not designed for that type of traffic.” said Kuzmich promising to work on the issue.

Zitko also stated that ODOT was getting more involved in locations where companies were using “permanent” signs for work zones, “We are contacting these sites where they have signs up on yard stakes and duct tape and letting them know that these signs for the work zones must be taken down and put back up each day.”

He brought a limited number of work zone booklets and advised that the state had a link on their web page for the PDF file.

ODOT also announced that once the asphalt plants were fired up that the state crews would begin full depth repairs along SR 151, SR 646 and SR 800.

The next meeting will be held on Monday, April 29 at 10 a.m. in the same location.

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com