At the risk of sounding like a Cynical Old Lady – I feel like last night’s Public Hearing was just a formality on the way to rubberstamping EPA approval. The gentlemen from the EPA admitted that most denied applications are due to technicalities, and are closed long before the Public Hearing phase. We’re screwed.
The following are my opinions, and quotations paraphrased:
The turnout was awesome (100+?) – the Hasting Library’s Community Room was standing-room only, plus dozens were standing in the hallway. The crowd was polite, and asked thoughtful, well-reasoned questions. They were also smart – and realized quickly when they were being treated to a bunch of bureaucratic double-speak.
Brine from Arbor Drilling’s 3 operating wells in the vicinity, will be pumped down into the limestone/shale layer described as “porous/spongelike” by the EPA guys. When concerns were voiced that the brine could migrate to, and rise up into adjacent dry wells – we were told that the shale was “very solid and would act like an efficient barrier to migration”.
The disposal well is for the exclusive use of Arbor Drilling (out of Traverse City), for their 3 local, non-fracking wells. However, Arbor could choose to use the well for ANY of its “brine” waste products, including that from fracking (which includes MANY more toxic and corrosive chemicals), without public notice.
We were shown a list of what things might be included in “regular brine”: the list said water; “some hydrocarbons”; and listed the chemical names of various forms of salt. It was stressed that “brine is not toxic”. But let’s go back and look at those hydrocarbons: they are drilling for oil, so the brine WILL contain crude oil, and crude oil IS toxic and carcinogenic. We all know that, but here’s a link to the Nat’l Institute of Health in case anyone doubts this: https://www.toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=73
Benzene is a KNOWN CARCINOGEN. Toluene is what kills kids who “huff” aerosols. These are both common components of crude oil. I’m embarrassed that a health threat like this was glossed over by the EPA – but then, Flint’s Water Crisis is a pretty good example of their level of concern about our health, IMO.
Earthquakes – this brought rounds of sarcastic laughter from the crowd…. the Disposal Well Permit will have wording to include “Observations for Earthquakes” by the drilling company, if it’s within 66 miles of a suspected fault (it’s within 18 miles of the epicenter of the 2015 Galesburg earthquake); and presumably, the pumping pressure will be lowered a bit from the max of 524 PSI to pump the brine into the well and surround porous rock. They were concerned about possible damage to the well itself, and brushed off the idea of creating earthquakes by saying the “epicenter of the Galesburg earthquake was much deeper than the disposal well will be”. Well guess what, boys and girls? I did a little research: The epicenter of the Galesburg quake was 2.48 miles down. The epicenters of the two largest Oklahoma earthquakes were 3.7 and 3.1 miles deep – and scientists are saying those were induced by disposal wells. We’re screwed.
The EPA guys admitted that they physically check approx 75 to 100 disposal wells per year. There are currently 1400 disposal wells in Michigan. Do the math 😦 Furthermore, there are proposed cutbacks in the EPA’s force and budget; and possible closure of the Chicago office. What they don’t inspect – they rely on the Well Driller to supply data. I think that was the point where a man in the audience burst out with “Hey – what could possibly go wrong?” and had everyone laughing….. except the EPA guys.
It was probably around this point, that I gave up and left the room. Greg Purcell, fellow GLPA and “Cuddy-ite” had given up before I did. After an hour-and-a-half of double-speak, we could see the handwriting on the wall. We’re screwed.