Last week, the Concerned Citizens of Carroll County held a public meeting in the Village of Carrollton to reveal the results of a three-year long study conducted in order to determine if natural gas drilling has had an effect on the quality of water coming from the wells in Carroll County. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, national group Energy In Depth and other industry folks have attended the meetings over the years to listen to the guest speakers, talk with the media and see the concerns over what is happening in the area.
On this particular night, the guest speaker was a Dr. Amy Townsend-Small a geologist from the University of Cincinnati. Amy and her team had been in the area over the past 3 years testing private water wells to determine if thermogenic methane was present (the kind of methane found in natural gas). The project was funded from two foundations providing grants; one was the Deer Creek Foundation in St. Louis and the other was the Alice Weston foundation from Cincinnati. They have since cut off funding but more on that in a minute. The idea of the study was to take baseline water well testing before much, or in some instances any drilling had taken place in the area near the water wells.
Over the course of the study, which included taking almost 200 samples from 23 water wells in 5 counties, it was reported that natural gas development has had no effect on the water quality. Amy spoke with the local Times Reporter after the meeting and said:
“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination.”
This was not an unexpected result considering the many studies which have previously come to the same conclusion, including the US Environmental Protection Agency. Having been to many forums like this over the last few years, one never knows how the reactions to positive results will be received. It was shortly after Dr. Townsend-Small released that statement that a pin drop on the carpet would have been overheard. The silence was so obvious that even the leader of the group Mr. Paul Feezel said:
“You all are very quiet tonight.”
I am sure the residents were happy to hear the great news but one did get the impression that they were somehow disappointed. We are sure the residents in these counties will stay vigilant but since the water well testing results have been conducted and verified by an outside source perhaps they won’t be as skeptical of information letting them know that oil and gas development can happen safely in their community.
It was clear from Dr. Townsend-Small that the residents did a have problem with biogenic methane but not thermogenic. She did a great job during her presentation explaining the difference and how they could test for the 2 in her lab back on campus.
Let’s take a look back at the previous comment about funding. It was made clear that the study has run out of money for testing and promotion of the results, but they are still looking for additional funding sources. On the same point during the question and answer session, someone from the audience asked if the university was going to publicize the results of the study, Dr. Townsend-Small has this to say:
“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”
I guess in this case, good news will travel slow, but at the end of the evening after all of the talk, debate and questions, the facts remain the same, water in Carroll County and the surrounding areas have not been negatively impacted by natural gas development.