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County considering law banning injection wells to protect water

Action on the ordinance, modeled after one passed earlier by Summerfield Township, is expected at the next meeting Feb. 16.

BY DEAN COUSINO

dean@monroenews.com

A countywide ordinance to ban new injection wells where karst geology exists or in areas close to Lake Erie is expected to be adopted soon.

The proposed law is being drafted by Monroe County commissioners to protect drinking water resources from any accidental pollution. The ordinance was discussed briefly at the county board meeting Tuesday night.

“ We’ll probably take action at the next meeting” Feb. 16, J. Henry Lievens, board chairman, said. “Our legal counsel will tell us… this is really a federal issue.”

The ordinance came about last fall in direct response to plans by Trendwell Energy, a Rockford firm, to drill a new 765- foot- deep well near Ida Center and Alcott Rds. in Summerfield Township so it could inject saltwater brine, a byproduct of oil drilling. Concerns are that deep injection wells could pollute the natural water tables that residents tap into for drinking water. Many residents live in areas of karst topography.

The township vehemently opposed the plan and passed its own local ordinance prohibiting the wells. The firm withdrew its proposal last week, citing poor results from oil and gas production and depressed prices for oil worldwide.

The county law cites the county’s unique karst geology and predominantly limestone and dolomite bedrock geology as vulnerable to disruption, especially in areas where residents rely on groundwater for drinking.

“These wells are not appropriate for Monroe County because of the karst geology,” Thomas Graham, the board’s attorney, said after the meeting. “It’s what makes the county different and unique” from other areas of oil exploration. “ The federal government is not aware of this and ( should) update its qualifications for these wells. ( It) has failed to deal with karst, so we felt we had to act.”

Commissioner David Hoffman, who pushed hard for the law at the county level, said local opposition from citizens, officials and state representatives helped kill the proposal.

“ We got the injection well stopped,” Mr. Hoffman told the board and more than a dozen citizens present. “ I thank you guys for this. If it wasn’t for the people speaking up, this thing would still be going. We made a good stand and stuck to our guns.”

Mr. Lievens noted that at the Monroe Conservation District’s annual meeting last week, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency was taken to task for not having a classification for developments in karst geology.

“ They need to address this properly,” the chairman said. “ The reality is karst geology is unique here.”

Commissioner Mark Brant commended both Mr. Hoffman and Summerfield Supervisor John Chandler for leading the fight to halt the firm’s plan.

“If it wasn’t for these two guys, I don’t think Trendwell would have stopped,” Mr. Brant said. “ They did a lot.”

Mr. Chandler attended the meeting and was eager for the county to follow the township’s lead in making sure future wells are not built in the area.

“ We have a responsible ordinance that’s binding on everybody, not just the oil company,” Mr. Chandler said after the meeting. “ Why not have an ordinance so they can’t screw up our water?”

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