By JOE GORMAN
YOUNGSTOWN - A representative for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said all state regulations were followed when a mechanical problem occurred at a North Jackson well site last fall.
Tom Hill, a northeast regional director for the ODNR, told Mahoning County commissioners on Thursday that the well site off Blott Road had a broken casing near the ground, and when it was detected during a state-mandated test, all policies and procedures by ODNR and the Consol Energy, which owns the well, were followed.
Hill also said that during the process, groundwater at the site and water at the nearby Meander Reservoir was never threatened by the problem.
Commissioners asked Hill to speak because a group of residents two weeks ago told them that a casing on the well was cracked in October and that ODNR never informed anyone.
Hill said Consol was running a test on the well when the casing cracked because of too much pressure caused by a mud pump near the surface. As soon as the problem was detected, the test was shut down, an ODNR inspector was notified and he came and inspected the well before repairs were made, he said.
Consol put in several more casings after repairs were made to protect water in the area. None of the damage from the initial break was deep enough to effect water in the area, Hill said.
''Everything was near the surface,'' Hill said.
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti asked Hill if the well is safe and Hill said it is. When several in the audience who oppose the well chortled, Hill said he would never approve any well that would damage an area's water supply, especially since he lives in an area like the North Jackson site.
''You think I'm going to let something like this go if I live in the neighborhood?'' Hill asked the crowd. ''I'm not going to let that happen.''
Some were upset that Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti did not allow those opposed to the well to ask questions. Instead, she said any questions could be submitted in writing, she would give them to Hill, and then she would make his answers public.
Some asked the commissioners who approved permits for the well, but Commissioner David Ditzler said that the state regulates wells, not counties.
Julia Fuhrman Davis, who opposes the well, spoke to the board and said that the law should allow for greater local control of wells, especially wells that are close to a source of drinking water.
''I wish everyone would get very angry,'' Fuhrman Davis said. ''Our rights are being stripped away.''