A group of Portage County residents rallied on the county courthouse steps in Ravenna at noon Monday, asking for an investigation of Ohio's injection well program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and joined other state and national organizations in asking the EPA to suspend Ohio's authority to administer the program.
The group said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees both oil and gas drilling and the injection well program, is not doing an adequate job of monitoring injection wells.
Gwen Fischer, speaking for local members of Concerned Citizens Ohio, said their examination of ODNR records show seven existing injection wells in Portage County have not been inspect for between four and 12 months, although ODNR says wells are inspected every 11 to 12 weeks.
Fischer said the group had concerns about injection wells before a Youngstown-area company owner was indicted for illegally dumped an estimated 20,000 gallons of drilling waste into a storm sewer that emptied, ultimately, into the Mahoning River.
Fischer said the group had trouble getting copies of permit applications for nine new injection wells in Portage County. She said they were told they only needed one "because they are all the same."
The group eventually had someone drive to ODNR headquarters in Columbus to copy the applications, Fischer said.
The requests for a U.S. EPA audit come after state and federal investigations into D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating LLC. The brine and fracking fluid was dumped between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31 on company property just west of the river, between Interstates 80 and 680.
D&L owner Ben Lupo and an employee were recently arraigned on federal charges. Lupo pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is accused of ordering his employees to dump the waste into a storm drain on the company's property in January.
Hardrock Excavating, another company owned by Lupo, also is charged in the case.
According to state and federal investigators, Lupo admitted to dumping waste about a half-dozen times.
D&L Energy operated the Class II injection well in Youngstown that was linked to a 4.0-magnitude earthquake felt in 2011. Officials shut down the well following that event.
State officials have permanently revoked operating permits for D&L Energy and Hardrock Excavating.
Gov. John Kasich has ordered the ODNR and other agencies to find out why Lupo's companies, with a long records of violations and citations dating back to the late 1980s, were continually granted permits for new wells.
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