When an area which has never been prone to frequent earthquakes suddenly experiences 11 quakes in nine months everyone starts paying attention. The one that struck the Youngstown area New Year's Eve at 4.0 on the Richter scale has nearly everyone shook up.
Although no one was injured nor was there any major damage, the latest quake caused the operator of a Youngstown area injection well, D&L Energy Group, to suspend operations and begin its own investigation into the cause. Now the state has temporarily banned all injection wells within five miles of that Youngstown brine-injection well suspected of causing the quakes.
All of this comes as drilling in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, believed to hold vast quantities of natural gas, in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia is gaining momentum. Homeowners who have chosen to lease the drilling rights to their property are reaping the benefits by being awarded thousands of dollars per acre by energy companies. Municipalities are also leasing their land or selling water for drilling, and using the money to cover shortfalls in annual budgets. Jobs, which have been scarce in our area, are also being created by this new and rapidly growing industry.
Now some are advocating bans on injection wells throughout the state until 2014. There are also calls for bans on fracking itself.
Fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of water, laced with chemicals and sand, deep into the ground to unlock natural gas reserves. That process leaves behind toxic wastewater that requires expensive treatment or else it must be pumped deep into the earth using injection wells, which have been around since the 1930s.
To date, no injection wells have been located in Columbiana County and until the cause of these earthquakes is determined, none should be considered.
While some are calling for total bans throughout the state, we believe more study is needed before proposing such drastic action, including a safe solution for the disposal of fracking water. An exhaustive study must be performed, but until the cause of the quakes is determined, no new wells should be located anywhere in the areas affected by the tremors.