ATHENS COUNTY, Ohio — For a second time, pumping is suspended at three Class II injection wells in Athens County used to dispose of hazardous waste from oil and gas drilling.

What You Need To Know

  • The Ohio Oil and Gas Commission ordered K&H Partners to suspend operations at three Athens County injection wells  

  • The wells are used to dispose of waste materials from oil and gas production in the region

  • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is facilitating testing for drinking water wells within a half-mile radius of affected sites 

On Friday, the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission upheld a June 2023 order issued by the chief of the Division of Oil & Gas Resources of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, suspending operations of the K&H Partners wells.

The commission also ended a nearly six-month stay of that order that allowed K&H to continue running the sites while the commission considered its appeal.

Frank Reed Jr., chair of the Ohio Oil & Gas Commission, issued a statement:

“The Ohio Oil and Gas Commission listened carefully to all the evidence and arguments from both sides. The Commission recognizes that the issues raised by this appeal are important and after carefully considering all the testimony and the briefs, we issued this unanimous decision.”

According to filings, some of that evidence included reports that brine, a substance found in oil and gas waste, was found to have migrated from the K&H sites up through another operator’s wells, contaminating the ground.

“There was really strong evidence of brine migration outside of the zone that it was permitted to inject into,” said Natalie Kruse Daniels, environmental studies professor at Ohio University. “Like, really strong evidence. And the Oil & Gas Commission heard that evidence. They were, you know, they were attentive, and they were thoughtful during those hearings. And they made a decision based on good science and good evidence ... I think in many ways they should be commended for that.”

Until the area is tested, the scope of the migration remains unclear, as well as whether any hazardous chemicals are affecting the environment or any area drinking wells.

In a statement a spokesperson for Tallgrass, the parent company of K&H said:

“K&H is adhering to the ODNR ruling but maintains the position that its brine water is contained within its permitted zone, which is significantly deeper than any freshwater aquifers in the area, and thus incapable of impacting drinking water.” 

K&H has 30 days from the Oil & Gas Commission’s ruling to appeal the decision to the Court of Common Pleas.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is said to be in the process of collecting bids from companies to conduct drinking water well testing in a half-mile radius around the affected injection wells.

Environmental experts encourage neighbors to be aware of any changes to their water, like a saltier taste, and to reach out to the Athens County Health Department if anything unusual is noticed.