Richland Trustees obstruct injection well, seek county support
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Richland Township Trustees are seeking government support in blocking a proposed wastewater injection well, while taking their own action to delay construction.
Trustees Greg Reline, Kathy Kaluger and Rick Ferrell voted unanimously to indefinitely table the approval of a permit allowing Omni Energy Group ingress from U.S. 40 onto Pickering Road, which includes driveway access into the site of Omni Energy Group. They also indefinitely tabled a road use maintenance agreement that would allow Omni Energy Group the use of 265 feet of Pickering Road for the purpose of construction of the site, drilling vertical injection wells, and ongoing operations.
The proposed well is to be situated at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ohio 331.
The trustees are also asking the Belmont County Board of Commissioners to make a resolution in opposition to the well.
“We need the commissioners to get involved,” Kaluger said. “We need to get people to write letters and do all they can.”
They made the motions at a special meeting location at the St. Clairsville rec center, due to expected crowds.
More than 60 people residing in and around the area attended to voice their concerns. Since being notified in April that the New Jersey-based Omni Energy Group LLC had submitted an application with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, residents of Pickering Road have expressed worry about the expected heavy traffic, fears of contamination and health risks, and the presence of numerous county government sites, educational facilities, residences and businesses around the proposed site.
Guests at the meeting also expressed fear of a large-scale traffic jam should an accident occur and the two major routes be blocked.
Reline said Omni Energy rents, but does not yet own, a property at the corner of U.S. 40 and Picking Road and could conceivably tear down the structure to create an ingress.
Reline said the trustees have reached out to state and federal representatives.
“So far, (Ohio Sen. Frank) Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) is the only one whose office called me back,” Richland Township Clerk Cindi Henry said.
Hoagland was present prior to the meeting, but left before it began.
Among the officials present was Belmont County Treasurer Kathy Kelich, who said the support of the commissioners would add weight to any appeals to the state.
“The county commissioners need to get involved,” she said. “For (State Rep) Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) or (State Rep.) Don Jones (R-Freeport) or Frank Hoagland to do anything, it has to go up the chain of command.”
Kaluger said she has familiarity with negative elements of the oil and gas industry from her work as treasurer and chairwoman of the land bank.
“I see firsthand every day what damage happens from the oil and gas industry,” she said. “We need the oil and gas industry. It brings back jobs and we want to keep everyone here. However, as a mother and as a citizen of Belmont County, and a resident of Richland Township my entire life, I’m concerned.”
Ferrell said while the area has embraced the oil and gas industry, such issues as wastewater wells must be considered.
St. Clairsville Mayor Terry Pugh also attended the meeting. He said the next city council meeting would include a resolution in opposition to the injection well for the council to consider.
Concerned residents lent their opinions to the discussion, saying they thought the wells would be better placed away from residential areas or roads.
“I don’t want to see any injection wells here. I know they have to be here. I’m for the business, but there’s plenty of open area in Belmont County that injection wells could go to,” Jay Pickering, of Pickering Road, said. “We live about five houses from where this is going to go.”
The road was named for the Pickering family.
“I think the saltwater injection wells are too new to put one near schools, churches and gas stations,” Andy Klotz, of Roscoe Road, said.
Wilbur Winland of St. Clairsville/Richland Township, who lives two miles from the proposed site, and a former president and CEO of the Mountain State Carbon coke plant, said he believed there were alternatives to injection wells.
“I don’t think deep wells are the answer,” he said. “We can recycle this product, but it’s more expensive.”
Another guest, Bev Reed, of Bridgeport, said the plant would result in more necessary space for wastewater and asked that guests consider joining in opposing the plant. Reed is a member of Concerned Ohio River Residents, an environmental group in opposition to a possible cracker plant in the Shadyside area.
“If they put this cracker plant in, they’re going to need a lot more injection wells,” Reed said.
According to a spokesman from ODNR, the application is still being considered and no decision is expected in the near future.
No representative from Omni attended the Tuesday meeting.
Trustees said they hope to have representatives from ODNR at the next meeting, 6 p.m. Aug. 7. The township hall is located at 66565 Glencoe-St. Clairsville Road.
The commissioners meet at 9 a.m. at the courthouse each Wednesday.