A state-ordered clean-up of an oilfield waste disposal site in Alexander Township is under way, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil & Gas Management confirmed on Friday.
“Vac (vacuum) trucks are in the process of that clean-out,” Adam Schroeder confirmed in an email Friday morning. “They’re moving along, and our inspector is watching and making sure it’s done to the letter of the law.”
This past summer, the ODNR oil and gas division ordered operators of temporary injection-well storage pits to take steps toward draining them of residual oilfield and fracking wastes, properly disposing of the “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material” in the pits, and ensuring the pits’ physical integrity going forward.
One of these “concrete pits constructed below ground surface for temporary storage of saltwater and oilfield wastes” is the Ginsberg well, an open-air cement storage pit located a stone’s throw away from Ladd Ridge Road in Athens County’s Alexander Township.
The NEWS was alerted to the clean-up process last week after receiving word from a neighbor who reported seeing renewed truck traffic going to and fro the Ginsberg site.
After the ODNR Oil & Gas division’s order in July, a news release from the Athens County Future Action Network (ACFAN, sometimes using the term “Fracking Action Network”) appeared to applaud the move toward stronger regulation of the temporary storage pits such as the Ginsberg well, with the release’s headline declaring “Constant Pressure Constantly Applied Finally Made a Difference.”
However, in the same release, Roxanne Groff, a member of ACFAN, cautioned that “final victory” won’t happen “until these pits and wells are closed.”
She added, “Drilling holes and injecting toxic radioactive waste in our ground must stop. We hope that this long overdue ODNR mandate will result in operators shutting down their dangerous waste dumps.”
ODNR’s Schroeder said Friday that the clean-up of the Ginsberg well, during which waste material is sucked out of the temporary storage pits, “is progressing well” and should be completed in a matter of weeks, providing the weather doesn’t interfere. (That was before the heavy rain earlier this week.)
Asked Monday morning where the waste material will be taken, Schroeder responded, “The waste will be taken to an approved facility, Austin Masters Services in this case, where it will be processed and solidified before being sent to a landfill. The division (or Oil and Gas Resource Management) will receive a manifest of these activities once they occur.”
According to the “about us” page on its website, “Austin Master Services is a full-service, comprehensive environmental services firm specializing in radiological waste management solutions, including remediation, D&D and transport. We provide professional safety, industrial hygiene and health physics services. Based in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, we serve commercial clients and government agencies nationwide.”
The oil and gas division’s order to operators of temporary storage pits for oilfield/fracking wastes was transmitted in letters to the operator/owners this past spring. A May 16 version of the order letter sent to Ginsberg well owner Carper Well Services in Reno, Ohio, stated that all fracking-waste injection-well operators comply with Ohio Administrative Code 1501:9-3-8(a) to “submit a plan regarding the drainage and proper disposal of all saltwater and oil field wastes.”
All sludge found in the pits (all considered to be “technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material”) must be tested for radioactive radium 226 and 228 and comply with state laws setting forth how and where the oilfield solid wastes and sludges in the pit shall be disposed of, according to the letter.
The letter included the preceding requirements and nine other bullet points detailing the minimum requirements that Carper and other operators must fulfill in their mandated plans to ensure that their storage pits are “effectively preventing” the escape of saltwater and oilfield wastes.”
The letter said that if the DOGRM inspection after Carper’s cleanup plan is put into effect “determines that the (drained temporary drainage pit) lacks integrity, Carper Well Services Inc. shall submit a plan for repair of the pit, or a plan to decommission and remove the pit.”
The aforementioned ACFAN release noted that they and other environmental activists have been exerting pressure on the ODNR for seven years to shut down and plug the no-longer-in-use Ginsberg injection well. The open cement storage pit is within 60 feet of Ladd Ridge Road, and has no fenced barrier other than a chain to keep vehicles out.