Commissioners schooled on area injection well sites

BROOKVILLE — Jefferson County Commissioners Paul Corbin and Jeff Pisarcik took in some detailed information regarding injection wells in the local area at an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meeting they attended Monday.

The commissioners spoke about the EPA meeting during Tuesday's commission meeting in Brookville.

Both described the meeting as "very informative." Corbin specifically mentioned being surprised to learn that injection wells have existed in the area as far back as the 1960s.

They said the meeting ran about two hours and included most of the local politicians and representatives. It described much of the process behind the creation and maintenance of injection wells, as well as the application for permits.

An injection well, according to written material from the EPA handed out to attendees at the Monday meeting, is "any bored, drilled or driven shaft or dug hole whose depth is greater than its largest surface dimension; an improved sinkhole; or a subsurface distribution system used to discharge fluids underground."

The EPA handout explains that such wells range from "deep, highly technical and more frequently monitored wells to shallow on-site drainage systems such as septic systems, cesspools and storm water drainage wells."

Five well classes were identified in the EPA handout:

• Class I wells inject hazardous and nonhazardous wastes into deep, isolated rock formations below the lowermost underground source of drinking water (USDW).

Hazardous waste disposal wells are more frequently used by industries such as petroleum refining and metal, chemical and pharmaceutical production. They are designed to prevent any waste from escaping the injection zone and must successfully demonstrate that such an event will not occur for 10,000 years or as long as the waste remains hazardous.

• Class II wells inject fluids associated with oil and natural gas production. Most of the injected fluid is brine pumped to the surface along with oil and gas, which is done to prevent surface contamination of soil and water.

Operators must follow strict construction and conversion requirements, except when the state and geological situations allow for different standards.

• Class III wells inject fluids into rock formations to dissolve and extract minerals. Owners and operators must case and cement their wells, which must be tested regularly.

• Class IV wells are shallow wells used to inject hazardous or radioactive wastes. They are banned except when used to inject treated contaminated ground water back into the original aquifer.

• Class V wells cover any injection wells that don't fall under the umbrella of the first four classes. They are typically shallow, on-site disposal systems, such as floor and sink drains that discharge into dry wells, among numerous others. They do not endanger USDW.

The EPA, Corbin and Pisarcik said, is in charge of the injection wells and of the underground sites upon which they are dug. This includes the application process through which parties interested in drilling one are required to go.

"It doesn't seem that complicated to get a permit for an injection well," Corbin said.

Pisarcik added that if a community wanted to stop an injection well from being set up on a particular site, it would probably require the passage of a legal ordinance against it.

When asked about the county commission's involvement, Pisarcik said, "We don't get informed until the application is complete...and accepted."
The permit application, which was also handed out at Monday's meeting, requires the submission of standard information about the potential owner and operator, the status of the well, the class/type of well, the location and numerous additional items.

According to a map compiled by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey, Jefferson County has a wide area of shallow oil fields, particularly in its southwest corner.

In other business:
• The commissioners unanimously approved the following items: The minutes of the meeting dated July 11, invoices in the amount of $255,722.43 for the period of July 11 through July 24, inclusive; pending invoices in the amount of $234,479.81; the actual gross payroll in the amount of $207,172.40 for the period of July 1 through July 14, inclusive; and the tentative gross payroll in the amount of $202,000 for the period of July 15 through July 28, inclusive.

The next meeting of the Jefferson County Commission will take place at 10:30 a.m. August 14 at Jefferson Place in Brookville.