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Environment


Taking water from state lakes to help save township roads
Eastern Ohio's great reservoirs may be a boon to the drilling boom
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Rocking beams dot the valleys and more are on the way
Courtesy of rudell
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In The Region:
“Over the river and through the woods”…WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports on the process of getting tens of millions of gallons of water to fracking operations across northeast Ohio…and on challenges literally, down the road
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The mournful sound of a gas-well rocking beam creeks north of Bowerston, in Ohio’s Harrison County.  This is lake country: eight thousand square miles of hills and hardwoods, with big reservoirs meandering through the valleys.  Clendening, Piedmnont and a dozen other lakes were built here 75 years ago as the nation’s first whole-watershed flood control system: the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.  

The rocking beams came later…and with water soon to come from the lakes, more will be on the way.  

Darrin Lautenschleger of the Muskingum district says that’s because over the next six weeks, the reservoirs will be “drawn down” -- lowered to accommodate the winter and spring runoff-- to prevent flooding.  “At Clendening and Piedmont there will be a combination of seven billion gallons of water that will be released during that time period.”  

And, he says, some of that water will be sold to drillers for “fracking”— blasting high pressure, chemically treated water into underground shale to fracture it and release trapped oil and gas. It’s the technology that’s creating Ohio’s gas and oil boom.

It takes about five million gallons of water to frack one well. Getting that much water, and getting it to the well sites, are challenges for drillers, and for the rural roads to the wells that weren’t built for tanker truck traffic. 

The Muskingum District lakes are near many proposed wells, so water could be sent to those sites via temporary pipe-lines (large diameter flexible tubing).  That would take some burden off the roads, and save repair and reconstruction costs. 

Joe Bauchman is Tuscarawas County’s engineer. He says repairing a back road after it’s damaged by heavy hauling or shoring it up ahead of time to take the load, means significant costs. “In talking to other county engineers we’ve kind of arbitrarily assigned a figure of $200-thousand-dollars a mile.”

Since township roads tend to be the most affected, Ohio’s Association of Township Trustees asked the Muskingum district to sell water to drillers; but only on the condition that the drillers sign a “road use agreement” that assures they will pay for upgrades and repair, and spells out how they’ll operate.  Belle Everett of Tuscrawas County’s Warwick Township is with the association. “Designated routes have to be named and these operators, their truck traffic, has to follow these designated routes.”

Laurie Lloyd is sitting by an astonishing array of brightly colored pumpkins and squash for sale in the front yard of her farm on state Route 212 in the heart of the lake country.  “Honestly, right here, right now, I see more oil trucks than water trucks unless they’re actually going to be drilling.  When they are going to drill a big rig, then you see then you get the big trucks hauling all of the equipment in.”

Up the road in Sherrodsville, Jeff Schmitt is a local insurance man.  He says property damage has not amounted to much yet. “We are getting a few comp claims, where we’ve had a few cracked windshields and those sorts of things.  But as far as collision claims, no we’ve not seen anything so far at all.  It’s been, ‘that water truck threw a rock and broke my windshield’ type of thing.”

The water trucks will go away in most areas fairly quickly; fracking a well takes a few weeks at most.  But, Engineer Bachman says, there may be a long-term cost story. “What sort of traffic are we going to get after the drilling is done.  I understand that there is one completed well in Carroll County.  And that completed well has 25 semi-trailers of liquid coming off of it every day. “

Meanwhile, selling water to drillers will bring the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District about 50 thousand dollars per fracking job.  Darren Lautenschleger says the money will pay for surface water quality improvements in the 27 county area.  


Related WKSU Stories

Environmental group says that Ohio isn't financially prepared for fracking
Monday, September 24, 2012

Fracking requires about 5 million gallons of water per well
Monday, September 24, 2012

A business EXPO that may help avoid the bust
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three non-water ways to frack a well
Thursday, August 23, 2012

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