Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas in the Utica shale has not created any major problems with Ohio’s drinking water, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has investigated 183 water-well complaints that Ohio landowners filed from 2010 through mid-October. Only six water supplies suffered any kind of impact by drilling over the nearly four-year period, state spokesman Mark Bruce said.
All of those problems stemmed from old, vertical-only wells, not today’s big horizontal wells that rely on fracking to free natural gas, oil and other liquids from rocks deep underground, he said.
To date, Ohio approved 927 horizontal wells in the Utica shale formation, of which 577 ended up drilled as of Oct. 12. There are 164 Utica wells in production. Thirty drilling rigs are in Ohio.
“None of the impacted water supplies were related to hydraulic fracturing or horizontal shale drilling,” Bruce said.
Senate Bill 165 tightened Ohio’s rules on well construction and should further reduce the risk when those rules end up adopted, said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for Energy in Depth-Ohio, a pro-industry drilling group.
Activists worry that 5 million gallons of water used to frack a well and drillers cannot clean and reuse that water and it ends up injected into rocks below ground in Ohio, said Mary Greer of Shalersville Township, a spokeswoman for Concerned Citizens Ohio.
One Ohio complaint came in 2011 from Carroll County, where the state found high levels of salt in a well in Brown Township. The state traced the problem to a leak from a nearby drilling rig’s temporary disposal pit. The company involved, EnerVest, supplied clean drinking water for several months until the salt levels dropped.
In comparison, Pennsylvania, where drilling began in the Marcellus shale earlier than Ohio’s drilling, has received 969 complaints since 2008, according to its Department of Environmental Protection. Drilling and leaks/spills linked to 106 water problems, the agency said.