Licking County Residents Express Concerns at Meeting

GRANVILLE -- In the past two months, Denison University has invited scientists, attorneys, activists and experts to campus to discuss oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
On Wednesday, Licking County officials had the chance to voice their opinion on the process and answer questions from the public.
Wednesday's event at Denison's Burton D. Morgan Center was the third and final discussion about fracking. Organized by Denison's Office of Sustainability, the first two panels focused on introducing drilling and fracking to the public and answering questions about their effects, said Jeremy King, sustainability coordinator.The final panel focused on the future of drilling and fracking in Licking County.
The event began with a presentation about drilling in Ohio by a group of environmental economics students.
The students explained the process of fracking, which involves spraying water mixed with sand and chemicals into cracks in rock to force out natural gas and oil. Companies are approaching landowners in Licking County hoping to harvest the oil in the Utica shale.
Although some experts say fracking will help create jobs in Ohio, others are concerned about how it will affect the soil and water, according to the presentation.
Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith was the first panelist to speak. He said he likes the idea of using local resources for energy but is also concerned about the environmental impact.
"We have to balance the environment, energy needs and what's best for our county," he said.
Smith said he has been in contact with the Athens County commissioners, who are considering forming an advisory committee made up of county leaders and safety officials to focus on fracking.
He said he is considering trying to form a similar advisory committee in Licking County.
For Licking County Engineer Bill Lozier, one of his main concerns was the effect fracking would have on the county's roads and bridges.
Fracking requires hundreds of trucks to transport water, chemicals and supplies to drilling sites, he said. Many roads and bridges aren't designed for that kind of traffic, he said.
Representatives of Licking and Knox counties and Burlington, Washington and Morgan townships recently negotiated a Road Use and Maintenance Agreement with Devon Energy.
Devon Energy has agreed to maintain the roads and bridge along two routes near a well just north of Utica in Knox County, Lozier said.
"We are feeling pretty good with what we've been able to accomplish," he said.
Granville Fire Chief Jeff Hussey discussed the safety concerns involved with fracking.
Although many of the fracking sites will be in remote areas, there still would be a chance for fires and spills. There also would be a risk of people getting hurt by machinery.
Emergency crews would have to work together and share resources to deal with those problems, he said.
"It's something none of us have had to deal with in this county," he said.
Paul Feezel, a representative from Carroll Concerned Citizens in Carroll County, focused on how the chemicals used in fracking can contaminate water in an area.
Water used to frack can spill and holding containers can overflow, putting the fracking chemicals into the water supply, Feezel said.
He encouraged people near wells to have their water tested regularly so they can be aware of any changes.
"It's not your grandfather's well anymore," he said. "This is a really industrialized operation."
After the panel spoke, audience members could ask questions.
Alison Laughbaum, of Granville, said she was concerned that brine from fracking could end up being used on county roads.
"My major concern is what are we going to do with the waste that is generated," she said.
Smith said it is against state law to use brine from fracking. The brine that is used on county roads is from production wells only, he said.
Nancy Burdick, of Newark, said her neighbors are planning to allow fracking on their property and she wanted as much information as she could get.
"I'm concerned about my water supply," she said.

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