Fran Bright arrived at the Covelli Centre on Wednesday looking for answers on what impact the recent boom in the shale industry could be having on the Mahoning Valley - specifically the possible link between a local brine injection well and a series of recent earthquakes.
Bright said that more importantly, she wanted to hear what state officials plan to do about the problem.
But the Hubbard woman, like many of her neighbors, walked away from the floor of the arena dissatisfied.
Bob Gray of Hubbard, a former Packard Electric employee, said he went to a public forum at the Covelli Centre looking for answers to the earthquake activity related to the deep wastewater injection wells in the area.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
"They basically just said a whole lot of nothing," Bright said afterward, shaking her head. "We need to know this isn't going to happen again. We're worried about our homes, our water, our children's and grandchildren's health and safety. And they haven't really told us anything."
Some 400 people gathered at the Covelli Centre for the public forum hosted by local officials, including members of Youngstown City Council's Public Utilities Committee, Mayor Chuck Sammarone and state Rep. Bob Hagan. Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials were also there.
Hagan said the goal was to address fracking - a process that blasts pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to release gas and oil reserves - and the disposal of drilling wastewater and brine through injection wells, and whether the system can be linked to recent seismic activity in the area.
Hubbard Mayor John Darko said, "They have a lot to prove to us and again, the earthquakes, I think common sense does tell us are caused by this injection well."
There was no mention of D&L Energy Group, which owns a well near where a 4.0 magnitude earthquake, the 11th of the year in the region, occurred on New Year's Eve. ODNR has said injection wells near a previously unknown fault line may have caused the quakes.
However, at a D&L news conference later Wednesday night, a company spokesman pointed out their is no proof the well caused the earthquake.
''Despite all the finger-pointing and guessing, we do not know,'' D&L spokesman Vince Bevacqua said. He urged residents to wait for results of a third-party, scientific investigation for which D&L is paying.
At the Covelli Centre, Lawrence H. Wickstrom, staff geologist and chief for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey, said that experts cannot determine before a well is drilled whether it is near, or even on, a fault line.
Several of the speakers, including Jeffrey C. Dick, associate professor at Youngstown State University and chairman of the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, sparked outbursts from the crowd when he said there is no co-relation between well injection activity and seismic activity.
"But that does not mean an injection cannot trigger an earthquake," he said. "We need to be careful not to have wells near fault lines."
However, he agreed with Wickstrom that because of Ohio's geological makeup, it cannot readily be determined where a fault line is located.
Jack Shaner, deputy director and senior director of legislative and public affairs with the nonprofit organization Ohio Environmental Council, said the state needs to adopt tougher laws to regulate the shale industry and hold companies accountable. State lawmakers in attendance said that is their intention.
Speakers also included Bill Kinney, president of Summit Petroleum.
Many community members said they came hoping to hear that their concerns about the process would soon be alleviated. A portion of the meeting included a question-and-answer period.
"I don't feel reassured at all," said Donna Schrader of Lordstown. "I don't believe they're telling us everything. I think there's more going on here, I really do, and it concerns me."
Rick Hernandez of the Hubbard Environmental and Land Preservation Organization (H.E.L.P.) said he would have liked to have gleaned more from the meeting, but he's not surprised that many people left disappointed.
"No one should be drilling," Hernandez said. "It's just asking for trouble.
''It's just no good. I understand this is a major industry and that it provides a lot of jobs. But it's also a matter of health, safety and well-being. The state is vague. They go back and forth and basically they don't resolve anything for us," he said.
Multiple political leaders have issued letters and requests to state government agencies to halt gas and oil activities, most specifically deep-well injection disposal of brine wastewater since the Dec. 31 earthquake shook the area.
On Wednesday, ODNR officials said a 5.0-magnitude earthquake could cause severe damage to homes such as the collapsing of chimneys.
The state ordered a halt to any injection well activity within five miles of the D&L well, and the company agreed to reduce pressure at the site and collect the brine and other drilling byproducts that flow back out of the ground in storage tanks.
Gov. John Kasich has said he doesn't want concerns over wastewater disposal to hinder the Ohio jobs promised by shale drilling.
ODNR officials pointed out numerous similar injection wells have operated around Ohio for decades without problems. They also noted that earthquakes are not new to Ohio.
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Canfield, said after the meeting, "After listening, I think that we should go after one, restrictions; two, inspections of the wells; three, further evaluation of where you are going to put a well before you put a well. Those things seem like common sense but I think we really have to concentrate on that. And four, different solutions on what we are going to do with this water."
Mark Reiser of Mineral Ridge said he was relieved to hear lawmakers are taking the public's concerns seriously.
"They're at least talking about, trying to give us information," he said. "It helped me. I have a little better understanding. I don't know that I like this. But I also don't like the idea of people being out of work.
''I'm hoping there's a way to come to some sort of middle ground, so to speak, where people can work and be safe, where their homes can be safe. What good does it do to have a job if the place isn't safe. And we all need jobs. It's a tough call."