Bob Downing, Akron Beacon Journal. Teresa Mills, one of CHEJ’s own, provided vital data for recording the amount and impact of liquid drilling wastes being injected underground in Ohio.  

Ohio is continuing to rewrite the record book for liquid drilling wastes being injected into underground rock formations: The 2015 injection total keeps ­growing.

That’s because additional fees are being paid in 2016 by waste haulers to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resource Management.

That 2015 volume was reported as 28.8 million 42-gallon barrels in March. Now it is up to 31.4 million barrels, as of May 20.

That’s enough to fill nearly 2,000 Olympic-size swimming pools with the salty wastes from shale drilling.

That means that Ohio’s injection volume in 2015 grew by nearly 42.8 percent from 2014. The earlier reported percent was 27.2 percent.

In 2014, 22.0 million barrels were disposed of in Ohio’s injection wells. That total was 16.3 million barrels in 2013.

The updated totals include 16.6 million gallons from Ohio and 14.8 million gallons from other states.

Injecting the wastes has been linked to small earthquakes in Ohio and other states, and critics say injecting wastes into underground rock formations poses a threat to groundwater.

Industry and state officials say injection wells are a safe disposal method and the growing volume of waste is simply evidence of the Utica and Marcellus shale booms in Ohio and surrounding states.

The new data come from Columbus activist Teresa Mills with the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice — who regularly analyzes state financial data to determine the injection volumes. ODNR does not release injection volumes but has never disputed Mills’ totals.

Athens County is No. 1 with 4 million barrels injected in 2015. Second is Coshocton County with 3.7 million barrels and third is Guernsey County with 3.0 million barrels.

The rest of Top 10 counties are: Tuscarawas, 2.9 million, Muskingum, 2.8 million; Washington, 2.6 million; Portage, 2.1 million; Trumbull, 2.0 million; Meigs, 1.6 million and Ashtabula, 1.3 million. Stark County is No. 12 with 577,369 barrels.

The drilling of new wells in Ohio’s Utica Shale has slowed because of low commodity prices, but production from already drilled wells is continuing to grow and that’s what has triggered the big increase in Ohio drilling wastes, state officials said.

Such a big increase in Ohio injection volumes is troubling to activists and local communities, Mills said.

Efforts by Northeast Ohio county commissioners and the grass-roots Concerned Citizens Ohio in 2015 to win support for a proposed statewide moratorium on new injection wells failed because of lack of support.

Ohio has 214 active injection wells. Much of the out-of-state liquids coming into Ohio originate in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Ohio can do little to block out-of-state wastes because they are protected as interstate commerce by the U.S. Constitution.

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