Firm looks to drill two Brookfield injection wells

BROOKFIELD — A Pittsburgh area company has applied for permits to drill two new wastewater injection wells in the township.

Highland Field Services LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based Seneca Resources Inc., is looking to develop the wells near state Route 7, according to applications the company submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

ODNR received the paperwork Jan. 19 and is reviewing it, said Steve Irwin, department spokesman. He said ODNR will schedule a period for public comments before making a decision on whether to approve the applications. ODNR regulates class II injection wells, which are used to dispose of oilfield wastewater.

If approved, the saltwater injection wells would be near an American Energy Associates’ injection well drilled two years ago that never became active.

On Monday, American Energy asked ODNR for a permit to plug that well. That request is pending, Irwin said.

Once an injection well is drilled, ODNR’s oil and gas division inspects it and determines whether to allow it to begin operating.

Brookfield officials said Thursday they heard rumors the past few weeks about new injection wells coming to the township. However, they hadn’t received anything official from ODNR.

“We were under the understanding we were supposed to be on notice and told about any applications,” said Trustee Dion Magestro. “Now, I don’t know that (ODNR) is obligated to notify us, but we had asked them to after the (American Energy) well was drilled and they said they would.”

Magestro said the township is concerned “based on the history of other local wells” in the area.

“Anytime you are injecting wastewater into the ground, there’s naturally a concern,” he said.

He and Trustee Gary Lees each said they expect community opposition.

“But we have no legal power to stop it,” Lees said. “We have no power to keep them from coming in. We can voice our opinions, our objections, but that’s really all we can do.”

Area residents have continued to voice concerns over local injection well activity since 2011, when a series of 11 minor earthquakes hit the Youngstown area, capped off by a 4.0-magnitude earthquake on New Year’s Eve. An ODNR report concluded the Northstar 1 injection well owned by D&L Energy Systems had been drilled into a previously undiscovered geological fault line. The report suggested the earthquakes were the result of brine water lubricating that fault line and causing it to slip. The well, on Youngstown’s West Side, was closed and never reopened.

Vienna officials unsuccessfully fought to keep a well along state Route 193 from injecting oilfield waste. But the owner, Oklahoma City-based KTCA Holdings LLC, secured the state’s OK to begin operations in September. Before selling the site to KTCA, Kleese Development Associates, or KDA, drilled but never activated the well. KDA faced scrutiny following a 2015 chemical spill that was linked to the company’s facility on Sodom Hutchings Road in Vienna. In April 2015, KDA was found in violation of several sections of the Ohio Administrative Code addressing polluting the environment, and operations of the five injection wells at the facility were ordered to stop.

Howland-based American Water Management Services is waiting to hear whether a judge will allow the company to reopen its injection well along state Route 169 in Weathersfield, north of Niles. AWMS has been sparring with the state since ODNR ordered that the well cease operations in 2014 after it was linked to a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. A shallow well at the site that also had been ordered closed was allowed to reopen.

Seneca Resources is the exploration and production division of Houston-based National Fuel Gas Co. Houston, according to the company’s website. Seneca develops and produces natural gas and oil reserves in California, Kansas and the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in the Appalachian Region that includes parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“Our hands are absolutely tied,” Magestro said. “All we can do is bark, we can’t bite.”