Drillers still taking water from Ohio Creeks

May 15, 2015
Shale Play


Shale Play

GLENCOE, Ohio - XTO Energy stopped drawing frack water from McMahon Creek in Belmont County in December, but the company is one of several Utica and Marcellus shale drillers once again pulling from streams across Ohio for spring operations.

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Fracking just one horizontal well normally requires millions of gallons of water, as producers need to either haul the liquid to their sites in fleets of tanker trucks or pump it there via a pipeline. In accordance with Ohio Department of Natural Resources rules, XTO and other drillers continue sucking the water, with the only requirement being to report how much they take.

"Periodically, XTO withdraws water from this location to fill freshwater impoundments for our operations for activities in the area. The activity is registered with the ODNR," XTO spokeswoman Amy Dobkin said of the McMahon Creek site located along Tar Run Road in the Glencoe area.

The driller is a subsidiary of Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, a firm that reported earnings of $32.5 billion in 2014. Near Ohio 147 in the Jacobsburg, Key and Wegee areas of Belmont County, XTO is drilling wells on property in the names of Kaldor, Gulley, Kemper, Reitz and Albright, ODNR records show.

Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, is not sure the ODNR should allow such activity without more oversight, however. He said an XTO lobbyist assured him the company had stopped drawing water from McMahon Creek.

"He said they weren't doing it anymore, but that was a while ago so they may have started again," Cera said. "This is a concern."

After originating in central Belmont County, McMahon Creek empties into the river at Bellaire. Cera said he believes the withdrawals would be less worrisome if they occurred closer to the river because there is generally more water there.

"Basically, the ODNR thinks, 'They have the permits, so they should be able to do it.' I just think we need to have more oversight instead of just have the ODNR sign off on it," Cera said.

Stream levels naturally fluctuate based on season, rainfall amounts and other factors. Even if the water is plentiful enough at one point, it may not be at another.

"Basically, we don't have enough information to know if it's a problem," Cera said. "After the permits are approved, I don't think anyone from the state is actually monitoring it. If I had cows, I would be worried about it."

Cera said he is working on an amendment that would add a layer of supervision to the water withdrawal process, but he is not optimistic of its passage in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

"We are the ones who have to deal with all this happening in our neighborhoods," Cera said of the eastern Ohio shale drilling area.



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