Ohio Leading the Way on Injection Well Regulations
This week, we saw thoughtful leadership in Trumbull County, when officials decided to host a meeting to address concerns over Class II Injection Wells. Attendees were given information about the Ohio statute, the permitting process, seismic monitoring, water quality and quantity issues, as well as the number of wells in Trumbull County.
In addition, there was an email that was distributed at the meeting from Dr. Mike Brudzinski, Professor of Seismology and author of a recent report on hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes. In the email, Brudzinski explains that he is again conducting analysis on seismic activity, but this time as it relates to Class II Injection Wells. From the email:
“We have been researching the magnitude 2 earthquake that occurred close to the American Water Management Services (AWMS) Weathersfield injection well site, near Warren, Ohio a few months ago. Our analysis in the first days after the event suggested that earthquake was almost directly beneath eh wells and part of a small sequence of earthquakes, so we shared those results with ODNR, as they were making decisions about whether to halt operations. We plan to submit our full scientific study for publication in about 2 weeks, but I could share the results with you in advance since I have heard there are a pair of meetings scheduled this week. Our further analysis confirms those preliminary results and supports the conclusions that injection was responsible for the earthquakes. While we have not had an opportunity to investigate any of the other injection wells in Trumbull County in detail, our broader studies across all of eastern Ohio have not detected any evidence that other injection wells in the county are producing earthquakes similar to the AWMS-Weathersfield case.” (emphasis added)
There are two important takeaways here:
1) The Ohio Department of National Resources (ODNR) halted operations when they were made aware of the problem. However, what is not noted is that the operator actually voluntarily shut down operations even before ODNR made the order.
2) This statement – that “broader studies across all of eastern Ohio have not detected any evidence that other injection wells in the county are producing earthquakes” – goes to show that these occurrences are extremely rare. This is important considering that Trumbull County has the most injection wells in the state, yet there’s no evidence that these wells are linked to felt seismic activity.
Ohio’s regulations regarding Class II Injection Wells are regarded as some of the most stringent in the nation and have been since July 2012. Subsequent updates to the law provided Ohio with rules, regulations and guidelines that go above and beyond requirements mandated by the U.S. EPA:
In 2013 as part of this regulatory program, ODNR greatly expanded its seismic monitoring capabilities around Class II Injection Wells. In several cases, private well operators installed expensive monitoring equipment at their own cost and shared the data in real-time with ODNR. This effort nearly doubled the number of seismic monitors operating in Ohio, detecting all types of seismic activity, including natural non-felt events. In September 2014, a 2.1 magnitude earthquake was detected at the AWMS injection well. A closure order was issued out of an abundance of caution by ODNR. Reports found that the public wasn’t even aware of the earthquake and here’s why: a 2.1 magnitude earthquake has the same impact of the wind blowing through the trees or a small ripple in a pond. According to the USGS, earthquakes of magnitudes between 1 and 3 are rarely felt by most humans.
The bottom line is that the system is working in Ohio. The regulatory actions taken by the state have proven, by the case study AWMS injection well, that these stringent regulations and monitoring are achieving good results. It’s clear the state of Ohio is leading the nation with swift regulatory reforms and continues to be proactive in addressing the health and safety of Ohioans.