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Judge reviewing injection well plans

A judge is considering plans submitted by the state and a local injection well owner detailing how the well in Weathersfield could be reopened, but with conditions on pressure and volume.

The well’s operator will have to run several studies before operations could begin again, if the plan submitted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management is accepted by Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Kimberly Cocroft.

Cocroft ruled in December that state regulators had the authority to shut down the well operated by American Water Management Services after earthquakes were detected below ground in July and August of 2014. However, Cocroft said the state should have allowed the company an opportunity to resume pumping operations at lower pressures and volumes and ordered negotiations for a reopening to begin.

Both sides have sent plans to the judge, although AWMS’ plan has not yet been uploaded to the docket.

Under the company’s plan, wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations could start pumping back into the ground one to three weeks after Cocroft makes her ruling, said Steven Kilper with Avalon Holdings, the company that owns AWMS and the well on state Route 169 in Weathersfield.

Kilper said the amount of time ODNR’s plan would take to enact pushes the opening of the well far into the future.

The ODNR plan would require AWMS to study how a 4.0 earthquake would affect the area’s local structures, including the Meander Reservoir Dam, bridges and buildings.

One of the reasons ODNR pushed to shut down the well was because of a 2.1 magnitude quake Aug. 31, 2014, 400 meters away from the well, the plan states. There were also 108 low-magnitude shocks before the quake, the plan states.

The earthquakes are “very likely” connected to the well, the state argues, citing an opinion from Michael Brudzinski, a professor of seismology at Miami University. Only two of 217 class II wells ODNR regulates have been connected to seismic activity, according to the document.

The state wants AWMS to survey the underground fault and determine its principle axis of stress so ODNR can “anticipate if faults are more likely to slip,” and to model the underground bedrock where the injections will occur, mapping where the liquids will flow.

ODNR also wants AWMS to complete seismic mapping using noise to produce a four-square mile diagram of the subsurface area. AWMS should also shorten the 8,500 foot well to 8,000 feet deep by plugging it, curing it and testing it, and adopt a “more controlled injection environment” with a steel pipe system that 90 percent of other class II wells use, ODNR states.

In addition to installing and activating seismic and surface monitors, ODNR wants AWMS to wait 60 days after installing them to allow for baseline data collection before injections begin.

There are several more demands, including radioactive tracing, minimal injections at first with testing and suspensions or reductions if seismic activity occurs, the plan states.

Kilper said no other injection well in the state is required to follow such stringent guidelines.

The state also is appealing Cocroft’s order requiring the two sides to submit plans, contending its order closing the well should stand.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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