CEO: Well still running

WEATHERSFIELD – Operations are continuing as usual at two area injection wells near the epicenter of Sunday’s low-magnitude earthquake, said the CEO of the wells’ parent company.

Ron Klingle, CEO of Avalon Holdings, the parent company of well operator American Water Management Services LLC, acknowledged Wednesday that a possible connection does exist between the seismic activity and the deep class II saltwater injection wells.

“We are communicating with the regulatory agency to develop a plan that makes sense and is based on science and not fear,” Klingle said. “Whatever that is, you can count on our company to do the right thing. We are not going to jeopardize anyone’s health or safety.”

Mark Bruce, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates Ohio’s oil and gas drilling and brine disposal, said the agency expects to conclude its investigation as early as today. ODNR is reviewing data from four seismic monitoring devices located near the wells to determine if a correlation exists between Sunday afternoon’s 2.1-magnitude earthquake and the two new deep injection wells nearby. The quake was centered about 10 miles northwest of Youngstown near Niles. Two injection wells located along state Route 169 in Weathersfield Township in March received ODNR approval to begin accepting oilfield brine and waste.

Seismologists at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University have recorded no other recent local earthquakes.

Local opponents of hydraulic fracturing and injection well brine disposal on Wednesday called for an immediate halt of all waste injection at the two injection wells. The group, Frack-Free Mahoning Valley, called for more scientific investigation.

Klingle responded by calling the opponents “anti-business.”

“I know they are doing everything they can do to promulgate their fearmongering,” Klingle said. “Everything has to be kept in perspective. This is vital for the United States of America. We are becoming energy independent. Should a non-felt event shut all of that down? If there’s no deep well injections, then there’s no drilling.”

Klingle questioned whether small earthquakes like the one Sunday are even relevant.

In response, Frack-Free Mahoning Valley leaders point out that an injection well-induced earthquake that occurred in 2011 in Prague, Okla., registered a magnitude of 5.7.

“Earthquakes cannot be strictly regulated to keep them small,” Frack-Free leaders said in a news release. “This is toying with nature and needs to stop. The risks and costs of potential earthquakes are too high a price to pay.”