The audience sentiment was unanimous during a public hearing last week for a proposed Class II injection well in Addison Township: “We don’t want it.”
Around 100 attended the three-hour long meeting held at Oxford High School by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Among those in attendance were Addison Township officials, activists and residents.
Addison Township Attorney Bob Davis kicked off the public hearing portion of the meeting, expressing officials’ concerns of potentially negative impacts to drinking water aquifers.
Davis requested that the EPA require a higher bonded amount of the applicant, Energex Petroleum, Inc., to help offset the cost of any potential contamination to local water wells.
“The township has no city water and no city sewer. Any incident will be significant, said Davis. “We request the bond be set at $5 million and that the bond, on behalf of this company, (be) in favor of contaminated wells, contaminated groundwater, contaminated soils and contaminated surface waters. The trigger of the bond needs to be tied to the cleanup criteria,” said Davis.
In accordance with EPA regulations, Energex has posted a state bond in the amount of $250,801 to allow for proper closure of the well if the company should claim bankruptcy.
Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson was the second local official to take a stand against the proposed injection well that evening.
Energex has held one permit for its existing production well with the EPA since 2012 and has been “in compliance” since the permit was granted, according to an EPA spokesperson at the meeting, Anna Miller.
“You say (Energex has not) had any violations but you say you haven’t had (much) history with them, either. I’d hate to be the history,” said Pearson during the hearing. “I’ve already had dealings with Energex. I don’t think they’re the most honorable company. They didn’t have any safety measures (in place) until it was brought to their attention at Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources hearings. We had a spill they did not disclose to us since that time. It had to be brought to our attention by (Fire Chief Jerry Morawski).”
According to Morawski, a small oil spill took place at one of the production wells located on the site two years ago. During that incident, the EPA was notified by Energex, but the Addison Township Fire Department was not.
The owners of Energex were advised by Morawski to notify the fire department immediately of spills in the future.
Most residents who testified before the two-member EPA panel expressed concerns that local water wells could be contaminated if the injection well is permitted.
Miller said contamination of underground sources of drinking water is “highly unlikely” because the site’s proposed injection zone is 3,600 feet below the bottom of the lowest underground source of drinking water.
The well in question, Lanphar 1-12, is located within Addison Township, near Leonard and Dequindre Roads, and was first drilled in 1978 to a depth of over 4,300 feet. It currently exists as a production well, according to Miller.
Leonard resident Joy Manthey shared concerns with EPA representatives about the integrity of the well’s existing steel casing, which would house the tubing that would deliver the injection into the underground well.
“It’s a mechanical thing and those of us who understand how mechanics work know that, as things age, they degrade. They don’t last forever. There’s an unknown life (expectancy) to this well. This well was built in 1978… We don’t know if it was built to withstand (that) kind of pressure,” said Manthey.
Miller stated during the question portion of the meeting that there are several existing injection wells throughout the state which have been operating with no incidents of fractures or contamination since they were first drilled in the early 40s and 50s.
Bill Carroll, an Addison Township resident, said there have been incidents over the last two years where he and his neighbors have smelled “sour gas” emitting from the existing production wells at the site.
He worried these incidents would become more common if the injection well is permitted.
“Would we return home to find our pets and our neighbor’s horses dead? You are talking about issuing a permit to inject hazardous gas into the ground with homes and water wells (nearby),” said Carroll.
In a recent interview with this reporter, Morawski said the Addison Township Fire Department received several of these calls approximately four years ago, while the production wells were in operation. During each of these investigations, Morawski said the department was unable to detect any hazardous gases.
According to EPA spokespeople, contamination of underground sources of drinking water and the air around the site would be prevented through a stringent self-reporting schedule which the company must abide by.
“If there is a known or suspected loss of integrity to the well, the permit then requires the cessation of the injection. The monitoring provisions in the permit are, in our view, intended to provide early detection of leaks to prevent contamination entirely,” said EPA spokesperson Steve Jan.
“We have 1,800 injection wells throughout the state of Michigan and there have been no incidents of contamination to my knowledge,” added Miller. “We have a lot of geological information about this state and this site so we know that this confining zone, in particular, is a very good type (for an injection). All the locations that we’ve seen and all the research that’s been done… this is not a fractured zone which would allow contamination. The other way we feel confident that fractures aren’t going to be a factor here (will be) by keeping the injection pressure below the fracture level of the rock.”
William Lensie, who lives on Dequindre Rd., took issue with the fact that the information required for the issuance of the permit, along with later monitoring reports, would generally be provided by Energex, rather than by a representative of the EPA or another unbiased source.
“You’re talking about injecting a toxic substance under huge pressure into the ground we live on and where we get our drinking water from. You assume that because this water is deeper than our water source that it’s not going to travel upwards… And, you’re willing to take all of the information from Energex at face value to issue the permit,” Lensie told the panel during the hearing.
According to the draft permit, Energex would be responsible for “observing and recording injection pressure, flow rate, annulus pressure, and cumulative volume on a weekly basis and reporting this to EPA on a monthly basis.” Energex would also be responsible for recording and reporting annulus liquid loss on a quarterly basis to ensure there are no leaks in the well. An analysis of the injected fluid must also be submitted on an annual basis.
Miller and Jan added that companies could be fined or have their permit revoked entirely if they fail to submit these reports to the EPA.
Rebecca Manery, of Leonard, said she worried the presence of an injection well could negatively impact nearby property values.
“What might happen to those, given the very obvious opposition to this project,” Manery asked the panel.
The representatives were available to address one-on-one questions after the hearing.
If approved, the injection well will allow Energex to inject a gas mixture, containing carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as components, into underground rock formations through a currently existing production well, known as the Lanphar 1-12 Well, in a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR).
According to the EPA’s website, EOR occurs when fluids consisting of brine, freshwater, steam, polymers, or CO2 gas are injected into rock and other oil-bearing formations to recover residual oil and natural gas in limited applications. The injected fluids thin and displace small amounts of extractable oil and gas, making it easier to recover.
According to the draft permit, the chemical composition analysis of Energex’s injection “shall include, but not be limited to, the following: Hydrogen Sulfide, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Ethane, Propane, Iso-butane, N-butane, Isopentane, N-pentane, Hexanes, Heptanes plus, Specific Gravity and Temperature.”
Those wishing to submit written statements are encouraged to send them to Anna Miller at U.S. EPA, Water Division, UIC Branch (WU-16J), 77 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604-3590. They may also be emailed to email@example.com.
The EPA will accept written comments until Oct. 19 (midnight postmark).