Injection Well Opponents Address Belmont County

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Richland Township residents voiced opposition to a pair of injection wells which might be coming to Belmont County.

Residents and officials of the township visited the Belmont County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, speaking out against the possibility of the two wells, to be built to hold fracking waste, which might be coming to the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ohio 331.

Since being notified in April that New Jersey-based Omni Energy Group LLC had submitted an application with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the residents of Pickering Road have made it known they have health and safety concerns. More than a dozen area residents visited the commissioners’ office Wednesday morning. Richland Township Trustee Greg Reline spoke for his fellow trustees to Belmont County Commissioners Josh Meyer, J.P. Dutton and Jerry Echemann.

“I feel that is is an absolute horrible place for these, with the growth that has taken place,” he said, then referred to “millions and millions of dollars that the state has put into bridge replacements, upgrading the intersection of Route 40 and 331.”

He said residents are expected an increase in truck traffic hauling waste to the site, which is near a hub of private, government and educational activity.

“To me, it’s totally unacceptable. We have Ohio University. We have Belmont College, we have Belmont JVS, we have Murray Energy, we have East Richland Friends School, and to have all those trucks going on (Ohio) 40 I feel is a direct safety hazard to the traveling public,” Reline said.

Reline added that he opposes Omni’s propose use of Pickering Road as an ingress to the injection site. He said that while he understands the company plans to upgrade a portion of the road, he believes the trucks will take a toll.

“I feel no matter what they do, it’ll never hold up to that amount of traffic,” Reline said.

“I think it’s a huge inconvenience to the residents, some of those residents on Pickering Road, those wells are pretty much going to be in their back yard, and I don’t know anyone who would want that. This whole thing is just not good,” he said,

Reline said that the people were making their concerns known to ODNR.

“We’re going to fight this to the end.”

He asked that the commissioners reach out to any state-level contacts they had.

“If there’s any possible way you could give us any assistance, that would be very appreciated,” Reline said.

“This is a state issue. We are very aware of it,” Meyer said. “Early on when it was announced we got several calls. We have had discussions with ODNR. … Unfortunately, we don’t have any oversight.”

Meyer said the board would continue to reach out, but ultimately the matter was for ODNR to decide.

“I’m not against injection wells per se, but maybe this isn’t the best site for this to go at this time, but we’ll do our part and make some calls,” Meyer said.

Dutton said that the commissioners have reviewed the issues with ODNR. He agreed that the proposed location is a concern for people in the area.

“ODNR could take that under advisement,” Dutton said.

“I’d much rather see a business of some sort operating there, and an injection well, if it has to be, miles from the site,” Echemann said.

ODNR has the application under review. but Reline said he has heard no updates.

“I’m also a resident from that area,” Wilbur Winland of Sanctuary Drive, about two miles away from the proposed well site, said, adding that these events could draw more public attention to Belmont County. “We have opened the county up for gas and energy services, they’ve done a lot of good things. … But the state could come in and issue a permit around two of our city’s schools, restaurants and all the other things out there, two miles upstream of our reservoir is just ludicrous.”

“We don’t want it,” Richland Township Trustee Kathy Kaluger said afterward. She said the past township trustee meeting in early June was packed with close to 60 people voicing opposition to the well.

The next trustee meeting is set for 6 p.m. July 2 and will be held at the St. Clairsville City Building at 100 N Market St. due to an expected crowd.

An informational meeting is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 1 at the Ohio University Eastern in Shannon Hall. The meeting will include presentations from John Stolz, director of the Center of Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, and Nicole Deziel, assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale University. For more information, call 740-233-1934.

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