When the subject is hydraulic fracturing and injecting oilfield brine — including the water and chemicals used in “fracking” operations — the safety of groundwater resources in the area is a natural question. The city of Mount Vernon, in meetings with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, is already asking those questions in order to maintain the safety of its water supply.
Since Ohio accepted primary responsibility for its Underground Injection Control Program in 1983, there have been no cases of subsurface contamination caused by injection wells, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. However, the sheer volume of fluids involved in fracturing a horizontal well bore, the number of wells that are likely to be drilled into the Utica Shale formation in Ohio, the unwillingness of some drilling companies to reveal everything in their fracturing compounds and the need for more disposal sites raises questions.
City Water Superintendent Judy Scott said the issues of fracking and brine injection as it relates to the safety of the city’s water supply does concern her.
“So far, areas where (fracking and brine injection) are taking place are nowhere near our aquifer protection area, but there is clearly a concern and we’re asking the same questions,” she said.
“I’ve also been following the issue of injection wells in the News and those far surpass the depth of our wells, so that’s some protection. I’m also concerned about the ‘proprietary additives.’ The companies are not very forthcoming.
“I’ve also read about the issues of ground shifting and the potential for earthquakes. We’ll be watching that closely.”
The city’s wells are about 95 to 100 feet deep and draw from a productive aquifer that extends up to the Fredericktown area, although the city’s “Drinking Water Source Protection Area” is far smaller.
The aquifer lies in an ancient river valley, filled with glacial debris, that roughly follows the line of the Kokosing River.