BAZETTA - At least two dozen protesters from Trumbull and Mahoning counties marched across Mosquito Lake Dam and up to the state park offices Saturday, calling attention to what they described as potential dangers with gas well drilling near the source of drinking water.
''Three well permits still exist close to the shore of Mosquito Lake, and there are five around Meander Reservoir," said John Williams of Niles, one of the organizers of the protest. "These are old permits for Clinton wells taken out in 2001. But ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) can easily transfer the permits to be used for shale gas well drilling. We want ODNR to revoke those permits and not allow any drilling within at least a mile of the water.''
Williams and Matthew Wengerd, a college student from Champion, enlisted members of their Occupy Warren and Youngstown groups to stage the protest at the reservoir since it is a drinking water source for the Warren area and since ODNR operates the state park and regulates gas well drilling in Ohio.
Protesters chant outside the Mosquito Lake Park office Saturday in Bazetta, calling attention to the
ODNR officials have said there are no plans for any drilling permits in that area or in Trumbull County right now.
Meander supplies drinking water for the Niles and Youngstown areas. Wengerd pointed out that the state does a pretty good job of keeping dangers away from that reservoir since boating, fishing and swimming are forbidden and hunting is restricted. But there are five inactive well permits off the western shore of that body of water.
The group is concerned that the millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals injected under high pressure into the wells could potentially destroy the fresh water.
Tribune Chronicle / Christopher Bobby
The Rev. Monica Beasley-Martin of Liberty joined protesters Saturday at Mosquito Lake State Park in Bazetta as they marched along state Route 305, calling attention to the potential for gas well drilling around the reservoir.
''My goal is to get rid of these wells and educate people how these could destroy all of Trumbull County,'' Wengerd said. ''I guess everything in America is for sale.''
''We want want jobs for this area, too. But the government has to be responsible about it,'' said Maria Montanez of Youngstown. She wore a surgical mask during the march to drive home a point.
The protesters carried signs that said ''Don't Frack Our Lake'' and ''The British Are Coming,'' a reference to Britain-based BP which last month announced it had leased 84,000 acres of land in the Utica/Point Pleasant shale formation in Trumbull County for oil and gas production. Those wells have yet to be drilled.
Bazetta police and officers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with protesters and supplied roadside escorts to slow traffic during the march. Once at the state park office, no one with ODNR was available to accept a letter from the group that urges officials to revoke the permits.
Diana Ludwig of Clarington, Pa., showed up to protest, telling others about two vertical wells that she claimed ruined the water table near her home.
Tom Cvetkovich of Youngstown said he has asked to speak at an upcoming Youngstown City Council meeting about the ''risk versus reward'' issues surrounding the potential for jobs and money to be made weighed against the potential environmental dangers.
''These wells are little time bombs waiting to go off,'' Cvetkovich said.
Not an official "protester," Nathaniel Combs of Warren mingled with the group as members passed out signs below the spillway of the dam. He was carrying his fishing gear.
''I've fished these waters since I was six years old. I'd like to keep it that way,'' he said.
Members of the group vowed to continue protests Monday when local government officials from Trumbull County are invited to a ''meet and greet'' with BP officials at Avalon Lake at Squaw Creek in Vienna.
Also among the protesters was attorney Jim Saker, a trustee in Howland and an assistant county prosecutor, who said he and his wife, Ellen, were there from a personal standpoint.
''I'm concerned about the apparent absence of local control with the drilling regulations. Cities and townships seem powerless to impose things like bonds for the drillers,'' Saker said. ''It's about the way we govern ourselves.''