Harrison road damage eyed

CADIZ?- Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris declared the honeymoon was over as he presented photographs of damaged county roads before the panel of oil and gas representatives at the monthly Shale Safety meeting held Monday at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz.

Heavy truck traffic begins as soon as a Marcellus gas well site is developed. First, heavy excavation equipment must be hauled in to grade the access road and level a multi-acre drilling pad. Then trucks haul in hundreds of tons of crushed stone for final construction of the road and drilling pad.

Multiple tractor-trailer loads are then required to haul in the various parts of the drill rig, while later hauling away these same parts from the gas well site. The largest volume of truck traffic begins with the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells, especially if more than one well is fracked at the same time.

Frac pumps, holding tanks, tanker trucks and a wide variety of support trucks and equipment eventually crowd the frac site. During fracking, tractor-trailer loads of sand are continually delivered to the Marcellus well site.

Studies indicate it can take anywhere from 400 to 1,300 truck trips to complete one gas well. Truck traffic will continue as the condensate tanks are periodically drained and the gas wells are maintained. This amount of heavy truck traffic damages roads and also contributes greatly to the creation of ground level ozone.

Once the frac is complete, scores of trucks from service companies arrive to complete the gas wells. Finished wells require regular visits from well tenders and other service equipment.

One Denton, Texas study determined that for all three phases of a gas well drilling, fracing, and maintenance approximately 592 one-way truck trips are required per well. Some individual trucks weighed as much as 80,000 to 100,000 lbs when fully loaded.

These projects resemble industrial operations, so state, county and local roads take a real pounding and commissioner Norris expressed the county’s concern over a lack of action by companies to maintain and repair the roads used to access the wells.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still feel the gas boom is a positive for the county and we have a good relationship with all of the companies doing business in Harrison County,” said Norris. “However, it is a relationship that should be based on mutual respect and I feel the county has been taken advantage of in several instances.”

Norris passed around a stack of photos form a weekend road tour of the county which illustrated the deterioration of the roads used to access these wells, processing facilities and pipeline construction sites.

Citing several county highways with sagging patches, sub-grade repairs, culverts blocked by debris and just rough travel the commissioner displayed disgust with the lack of action to repair the infrastructure, “This is a safety concern for our citizens who travel these roads and we feel that it should be our primary focus to protect the taxpayers,” Norris stated. “I feel we should hold up all RUMAs until the road work which has already been promised is done.”

“We never claimed we would have 100 percent compliance,” Ryan Dean, senior coordinator of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy who responded to charges of vehicles using non-bonded routes to access sites and responsibility for contractors by their corporate employers. “It’s a blurry line. It is a little bit of science and a little bit of art.”

Norris stated that the county has the option under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 5577.07 Reduction of weight and speed during times of thaws and moisture to reduce the weight limits on all county roads due to a documented excess of rainfall in the county.

According to the ORC, “When thaws or excessive moisture render the improved highways of this state or any sections of them insufficient to bear the traffic thereon, or when such highways would be damaged or destroyed by heavy traffic during the period of thawing or excessive moisture, the maximum weight of vehicle and load, or the maximum speed, or both, for motor vehicles, as prescribed by law shall be reduced.”

Norris added that in addition to considering invoking the ORC rules the county board of commissioners will pass a resolution in the next few weeks which will allow the county to assess charges for permits issued to oil and gas companies operating in the area.

“There is a cut on CR 2 which has been over a year without being properly repaired,’ fellow commissioner Don Bethel agreed. “We welcome the new industry and will assist them as much as possible but not at the expense of our taxpayers.”

“I feel we have to address this now before it becomes a crisis,” Bethel added the board would be addressing the road use issues in their upcoming meetings.

“There are sections of road that are currently so bad that it is already a safety hazard,” agreed county road superintendent Jim Albright. “The county is simply overwhelmed by the problem, we just do not have the manpower or equipment to keep up.”

Albright also reported a call from a concerned citizen about a tanker truck hauling residual waste that was leaking it’s load as it drove down a county highway.

“Enforcement of all these restrictions is also a problem,” said Sheriff Ronald J. Myers, “We only have so many units and deputies in Harrison County and we can’t be everywhere.”

“We ask that when companies have meetings with their contractors to emphasize safety,” Myers added. “Emphasize the importance of compliance and not losing your load.”

Anna M. Kuzmich, P.E. statewide shale coordinator for the Ohio Department of Transportation explained that the State of Ohio issues 1800 permits daily, “These cover only state routes and we always explain that the drivers need to contact county and townships for permits on local roads.”

Kuzmich will invite a representative from the permit issuing department to the next shake safety meeting to discuss routing concerns.

ODOT also announced the launch of Behind the Barrel which is a weekly maintenance report for the counties in the district .

A foursome of personnel from the Ohio Department of Homeland Security was in attendance to address the issue of well and pipeline safety. Dean Palmer, Regional Coordinator at the Strategic Analysis and Information Center in Columbus explained that local residents are the best tool to avoid any problems, “The people who live here know what is supposed to be here and what is not,” Palmer said. “If you see something say something.”

“We have not had problems yet in Ohio but there have been issues in Pennsylvania with pipe bombs,” Palmer added. “You are serious about getting this industry started in the area but I assure you there are persons who are just as serious about stopping it.”

“Hats off to Sheriff Myers and all of you here for taking the opportunity to sit down and work out your problems and discuss safety issues,” Palmer concluded. “We have 5 analysts in our office, so if you see something suspicious or want to report the theft of scrap metal at a facility please contact us.”

The Sheriff also reminded all of the participants that school is back in session beginning August 21 for Harrison Hills and all drivers should be aware that school buses will be back on the roads.

The next shale safety meeting will be held Aug.t 26.


Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris declared the honeymoon was over as he presented photographs of damaged county roads before the panel of oil and gas representatives at the monthly Shale Safety meeting held Monday at the Puskarich Library in Cadiz.