Ginsberg protest

Madeline Ffitch “locked” her arms in barrels of concrete to block access to the Ginsberg injection well in a 2012 protest. Critics have called for the well to be plugged.

ATHENS — A concrete pit used to store wellfield waste at an Athens County injection well will be examined for structural integrity.

The Ginsberg injection well on Ladd Ridge Road has been a target of those opposed to injection wells in Athens County, it part because it uses an open pit for storage of waste before it is pumped underground. Critics have expressed concern about potential leaks and overflows, although spokesperson Eric Heis of that Ohio Department of Natural Resource said Friday that there hasn’t been such an occurrence within the past decade.

Heis said a records search would be needed to determine whether it’s happened further back in time.

In May, ODNR’s Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management sent a letter to Carper Well Service Inc., operator of the Ginsberg well, telling the company to empty the pit so the concrete can be inspected to determine the presence or absence of cracking or spalling. Similar letters were sent to operators in other areas that use open concrete pits. Newer wells have storage tanks.

The letters require operators to develop a plan for proper drainage and disposal of all saltwater, oily wastes, sludges and bottom sediments so that an inspection can take place.

“The operator (of the Ginsberg well) has indicated their plan is under development and the Division will work with them to ensure an appropriate plan is written and approved that accomplishes the goals outline in the letter,” Heis stated in an email.

The Athens County Fracking Action Network (AFCAN) sent out a news release calling the division’s action “progress, a first step.”

“We cannot declare a final victory until these pits and wells are closed,” said ACFAN member Roxanne Groff. “Drilling holes and injecting toxic radioactive waste in our ground must stop. We hope that this long overdue ODNR mandate will result in operators shutting down their dangerous waste dumps.”

The May letter from the division states that to prepare the concrete pit for inspection, the drained the waste (including any cleaned from the sides) can be injected into the Ginsberg well. If there are sediments and sludges on the bottom, it must be put in liquid-tight containers, tested for radioactivity and disposed of properly.

“All oilfield solid wastes and sludges in the pit are considered ... technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material,” stated the May letters sent to operators.

The emptied pit is to be inspected an engineer and underground injection well inspector from the division.

Although the Athens County Commissioners have no role in regulating injection wells, opponents of the Ginsberg well had periodically asked their support.

In 2013, the commissioners approved a resolution asking the state to shut down the Ginsberg well, asserting that there has been “a 25-year history of violations, well failures, notices to be shut down and incomplete inspection reports.”

Last September, the commissioners voted — at the request of Groff — to ask the state to plug the Ginsberg well.

Groff is on the agenda of Wednesday’s meeting of the commissioners. The ACFAN news release stated there will be a gathering that day at Little Fish brewery to “celebrate step one and discuss step two.”

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Steve Robb is a Messenger staff journalist; Twitter @SteveRmessenger

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