NORTH JACKSON - Casings are being set here to begin drilling what will be the third natural gas well expected to tap into the Utica Shale in Mahoning County.
The horizontal well, south of Mahoning Avenue near Bailey Road, is being drilled by CNX Gas Co. LLC, according to information released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Permits were obtained at the end of August, and the first of four or six conductor casings are being set, ODNR records show.
Conductor casings are the steel pipes that are inserted into the ground before hydraulic fracturing can begin.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process in which chemicals, water and sand are blasted into the rock formation deep below the earth's surface to reach the pockets of natural gas there.
Erection of the well is taking place much to the chagrin of local activists who fear the implications drilling so near Meander Reservoir might bring. The reservoir provides drinking water for about 300,000 Mahoning Valley users. The well is located in the Meander Reservoir's watershed.
''People need to think about where does my water come from and learn about watersheds,'' said local activist and geologist Susie Beiersdorfer of Youngstown. Beiersdorfer, a geology instructor at Youngstown State University, said she worked at gas and oil drilling sites in California in the 1980s.
''We all live downstream,'' Beiersdorfer said Thursday. ''Our planet has finite resources on it. Water is not a renewable resource.
''They use high volumes of water and high pressures. There's a lot of margin for error and risk, and I don't think that's being addressed through the regulations,'' she said, pointing out that the agency that polices the industry also is paid by dollars generated through the industry.
''We all live in a watershed, and ODNR strives to protect our water,'' ODNR spokesman Matt Eiselstein said Thursday. ''In the permitting process, we do give special attention to those areas.''
ODNR reports indicate two other horizontal wells in Mahoning County are either being drilled or have been drilled. They are the Chesapeake Exploration well in Milton Township, which was permitted in May 2011, and another CNX well in Ellsworth Township, which received its permit in November. Ten other horizontal wells in Mahoning County have been issued permits by the ODNR, but drilling has not yet commenced.
In Trumbull County, two horizontal natural gas wells received permits in April and May. They are located in Hartford and Vienna townships. No drilling has begun in Trumbull County.