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Belmont County Residents Seek County Support Against Well

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton speaks with Amanda Smith of St. Clairsville during a break in Wednesday’s meeting. About two dozen people asked the Belmont County commissioners to send the state written opposition to a proposed injection well in Richland Township.

Belmont County residents were in their commissioners’ office Wednesday, seeking county support against a proposed injection well.

Earlier in the week, the Richland Township Trustees took action to block the project, while calling on the commissioners to support their actions at the county level. On Tuesday, the trustees indefinitely tabled two matters pertaining to the well, one permit and one road use maintenance agreement. The well is eyed for a field at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ohio 331.

During the meeting the trustees and Belmont County Treasurer Kathy Kelich said appeals to the state representatives to help in preventing the well would hold more weight if the commissioners made a resolution of opposition.

Commissioners Josh Meyer, J.P. Dutton and Jerry Echemann said while the board has no jurisdiction over the proceedings, they are reaching out to representatives.

Pease Township Trustee Michael Bianconi said he had attended an informational presentation about the oil and gas industry Monday at Ohio State University Eastern, and the Richland Township meeting Tuesday. He added that the Pease Township Trustees will also consider a resolution of opposition.

“I don’t think we should be the dumping ground of the industry,” he said. “It’s not just Richland Township, it could be my township, … any area of the county.”

“The last couple of weeks we’ve publicly stated that we oppose the injection well site, and we’ve also been working on this several weeks prior, as soon as the issue came up,” Meyer said, adding that the commissioners have been in contact with ODNR and state representatives.

Dutton agreed, and added that ODNR has said there was no timeline for the project.

“I grew up in Flushing, Ohio,” Dutton said. “I’m very familiar with that interchange.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is still reviewing the permit application, with no sign of reaching a decision in the near future.”

Speaking on his own behalf, Dutton said he attended the college meeting and heard the information provided.

“I don’t think I have any environmental concerns at this point, but I’ll continue to educate myself,” he said. “My concern right now is the site and if it’s a good match.”

Dutton said injection wells are a necessity of the industry and the waste from operations in Belmont County has been going outside of the county and state in many cases.

“We would not be alone in terms of having these locations in Belmont County. They do exist in other counties, they do exist in other states, they do exist across the county,” he said. Dutton said he trusted ODNR’s process of determining the safety of any project.

Echemann said he was against the use of the particular site, but that the industry required wells in the area.

“I’m opposed to this site,” Echemann said. “We do have oil and gas in our county, and I don’t think we can have all this oil and gas activity without some injection wells.”

Amanda Smith of St. Clairsville called for the commissioners to put their opposition in writing.

“Even if we pass a resolution, it does not stop the state from doing anything,” Meyer said.

“We voted you in. We want you to represent us, we want you to support us. … Whether the state acknowledges it or not,” Smith said.

Meyer said he doubted the effectiveness of a resolution, but the board would consider sending a letter of opposition. Dutton added that the commissioners had not been informed by the state of any need for a resolution from them.

“It will go to the (Ohio) Senate, it will go to the state reps, it will go to ODNR,” Meyer said. “We will put it in writing so they can hear, but they’ve heard our voices loud and clear on this.”

“I know that you’ve said it’s on public record, but it needs to be sent to ODNR. It needs to be sent to (representatives). They’re not going to go on Facebook and read it,” Smith said.

“Putting things in writing is extremely important, so don’t dismiss that,” Tim Martinek of St. Clairsville said.

According to Adam Schroeder and Mark Bruce, public information officers for ODNR, there is currently one injector well off of Ohio 800 in Barnesville, which has seen no issues. CNX Resources owns the well.

The first quarter of this year, a total of 76,000 barrels of waste was disposed of from within the state, and 87,000 from out of the state, with 44 gallons per barrel.

Port Authority Director Larry Merry said several years ago a prospective injection well was drilled in the Kirkwood Heights area off of Ohio 470 in Bridgeport, but it was never used because the geology did not accommodate thee pumping of water into the well.

“I think there’s good chance that would be the case here, even if it got permitted and they drilled the well, they would find the formations did not accommodate water being put in the ground there,” Merry said, adding that ODNR’s permitting process was a long one.

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