To the Editor:

I applaud Barnesville for preparing a Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP), a draft of which will be presented to the public on April 9th at 6:00 pm at the Barnesville Library Annex, 611 North Chestnut St.

Impetus for the plan grew, at least in part, from the growing awareness of risks posed by shale gas development in the area. Given that fact, I think it relevant to note that of the two major categories of risk posed by shale gas operations, only one, the immediate risks posed by surface accidents and spills, was addressed in SWPP meetings to date and in the first SWPP draft.

The second risk category, that of compromised well bore integrity (leaking), is chronic, insidious, and tends to get worse over time. I presume it is missing from the draft because “Source water assessment and protection (SWAP) is a non-regulatory [emphasis added] state program administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).” I believe this highlights a part of the problem in Ohio, where all regulatory oversight of oil and gas development has been taken from the OEPA and placed with the ODNR Division of Oil and Gas (DOG). OEPA has no say over where shale well pads are placed or how they are regulated or inspected. OEPA can do little more than negotiate or beg the DOG to take the steps necessary to protect our water.

The first draft gives no indication of whether it will even recommend keeping well pads outside the surface watershed, instead stating: “The village will maintain a simple database of the locations of active drill sites within or directly adjacent to their reservoir watershed areas.” Concerning the underground aquifers that feed the reservoirs, I have been told that for ground water systems, the OEPA defines protection areas by 1 and 5 year time of travel analyses. If you have concerns and would like clarification of some of these issues, please come to the public meeting.

Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania have an average rate of compromised integrity of 6.2% to date. Oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007. Of the 22 shale wells in production in Belmont County through May 2014, only three were inspected during the critical phase of installing and cementing the surface casing. At last check, half had no record of ever having been inspected. Do we have reason to expect better results in Ohio than in Pennsylvania?

John M. Morgan



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