People opposed to injection wells say Portage County is becoming known as "Potty County" because it leads Ohio in the number of wells and the amount of oilfield waste going into them.
Portage County now has 15 operating wells and 10 new wells permitted but not drilled, leading Ohio in the number of Class II injection wells and in the amount of waste injected underground.
"People are upset, from environmental groups to the public, that we're the dumping ground here yet again. We've seen it before with solid waste" and landfills, said Melanie Houston director of Water Policy and Environmental Health for the Ohio Environmental Council.
A total of 2.209 million barrels of waste were injected beneath Portage County last year. (Each barrel equals 42 gallons.) Ohio injected 14.157 million barrels of waste into 180 wells in 2012. That total was 12 percent higher than 2011, according to state figures.
Ohio is just one of the states undergoing a boom in shale drilling. The waste its handles is a small percentage of drilling waste injected across the country. Nationally, 50 million barrels of waste are injected every day into Class II disposal wells.The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says Ohio has 188 Class II wells capable of accepting injections, with 41 additional outstanding permits. Nationally, there are some 151,000 Class II saltwater injection wells.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said ODNR geologists believe the state's capacity is suited to handle industry demand, particularly with more companies reusing and recycling hydraulic fracturing fluid.
Bruce said a preliminary look at the first two quarters of 2013, shows "a decrease in the amount of injection disposal compared to the same period in 2012." That seems to be due to a decrease in drilling in Pennsylvania and also to the larger drillers recycling more fracking water, he said.
That's good news to people concerned with how much fresh water is used to fracture a new natural gas well.
The Ohio Environmental Council has been calling for recycling and reuse of the fracwater on other extraction wells.
"It would cut down on the demand for fresh water and reduce the major pressure on (injection) wells," Houston said.
The OEC has no official position on injection wells, but "we believe that injection wells are safer than some methods of disposal (such as brine on roads or open storage pits) but not the best case scenario," Houston said.
Bruce said ODNR has no documented cases of water contamination from injection wells in Ohio.
"To what degree are they really monitoring the wells? How do we know the wells aren't leaking, particularly with the low number of inspectors?" Houston asked.
ODNR officials say Ohio's regulations are even tougher than those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Less than half -- 6 million barrels -- of last year's totals came from Ohio drillers while 8.2 million barrels came from out of state, with most coming from Pennsylvania and West Virginia. While some people would like to bar the out-of-state waste, Ohio cannot do so because it would be an infringement of interstate commerce and a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Seven of the new wells permitted for Portage are in Windham and Nelson townships are permitted to the Hard Rock Drilling Co. of West Salem, Wayne County. The company is not connected to Hardrock Excavating LLC of Youngstown which was involved in the illegal dumping of thousands of gallons of drilling waste into storm sewers leading to the Mahoning River.
Another new permit is for a well in Atwater near Bank Street and U.S. 224 and is permitted to Everol LLC of Medina.
Ohio tightened its rules on injection wells last year in the wake of earth tremors felt in the Youngstown area in 2011. Scientists determined the quakes were caused by an injection well near a previously unknown fault line. The well was shut down and Ohio imposed a moratorium on new wells until rules could be examined. That moratorium was lifted at the end of last year when new rules were put in place.
Waste injected into the Class II saltwater injection wells comes from the drilling process for gas and oil wells and from producing wells. It includes brine from producing wells, a naturally occurring salt water from deep underground, and fracking fluid, a mix of water, sand and chemicals used to break open shale layers in the hydraulic fracturing process.
The brine and fracking fluid can pick up dissolved solids, sodium chloride, calcium, magnesium, heavy metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials from deep rock layers.
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Nationally, there are about 151,000 Class II injection wells.
Ohio has 188 active Class II injection wells.
Ohio has 41 outstanding permits for wells not yet operating.
Injection wells can be drilled new strictly for waste disposal or they can be re-purposed from an old gas or oil well or an exploratory well.
Disposal wells are drilled to porous rock formations far below waterbearing layers that would be used for drinking water, to depths between 4,000 to 13,000 feet.
The wells have to be below an impermeable layer of rock or clay to prevent injected fluids from seeping out of the injection layer.
There were nine injection-well operators permitted in Portage in 2012. Two of those - Fortis Energy Partners in Deerfield and Lake Energy in Windham, showed no activity at their wells.
Stallion SWD LP (Salty's) was the biggest operator with 1.5 million barrels injected in wells in Edinburg, Nelson and Rootstown.
Second was Ray Pander Trucking with 458,604 barrels injected into wells in Brimfield and Hiram.
Other operators include:
Pursie H. Pipes, 206,452 barrels in Edinburg;
B&B Oilfield Services, 126,912 barrels in Shalersville and Windham;
Enervest with 64,281 barrels in Edinburg, Nelson and Shalersville;
Resource Well Services with 42,374 barrels in Deerfield;
PT Services with 13,697 barrels in Shalersville.