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Opposition to Fracking Wastewater Grows in Mansfield

The economically struggling city of Mansfield seems poised to get a new industry; one associated with natural gas production. A company wants to dispose of fracking wastewater in deep wells in the city. But many of Mansfield's residents don't want them. The rapid growth in the use of hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - has meant accelerated growth in oil and natural gas production. But fracking creates an unwanted byproduct - wastewater which contains hazardous chemicals. Now a Texas company wants to build two deep injection wells - between 1,000 and 5,000 feet deep - in Mansfield to dispose of the water. It's a prospect that has people like Mansfield city councilman Scott Hazen concerned. “Here's a company from Texas with no relation whatsoever to Mansfield, they're digging a well in Pennsylvania with no relation whatsoever to Mansfield and yet somehow they believe that Mansfield, Ohio should take on the responsibility for their issue,â€? Hazen says. As badly as Mansfield needs new industry, there's not much in the deep well injection system that would help revive the economy. Steve Mobley, the president of Texas based Preferred Fluids Management, says the company would ship wastewater from the drilling fields of Pennsylvania to Mansfield. The wells would be located on five acres in the city's airport industrial park. Mobley told The Mansfield News Journal that the wells would employ two people. But he indicated that other jobs would be created such as jobs for truck drivers. Again Mansfield Councilman Scott Hazen… “The promise of four or five jobs isn't necessarily worth living with a chemical dump site for hundreds of years and God knows what can happen with this thing down the road,â€? Hazen says. “It's a head-scratcher. Why can't you resolve this there? If it's not safe to place it in the ground in Pennsylvania what makes it safe to place it in the ground a couple of hundred miles away in Mansfield, Ohio,â€? Hazen says. The company maintains injection wells are the safest way to dispose of fracking wastewater. But even residents who, in theory, support the idea wonder what would happen if there's some sort of leak into the freshwater aquifer above. They're even more concerned because they say they don't know what's in the water. Realtor Mervin Shaffner has lived all of his 80 years in Mansfield. He says he wants to keep an open mind about the process. “By all means if there's natural gas down there I can't see not using it. I just want to make sure that we don't have the same problems that they had in the Gulf of Mexico where we've destroyed Mother Nature,â€? Shaffner says. Last month the city council voted unanimously to turn down the proposal. But what the city does or does not want may count for nothing. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it has jurisdiction in the matter and it has approved Preferred Fluids' applications. “The injection company itself through its president stated that these two wells are capable of pumping 400,000 gallons of water a day. And this industry works seven days a week. So you take that times 365 days a year and that's 1.2 billion gallons of water,â€? says Eric Miller. Eric Miller is a Mansfield attorney who's representing several groups opposed to the deep injection wells. “Now in theory it is safe and it's reposing in its tomb forever and it will never disturb anyone. But we aren't convinced that that water will stay safely entombed and that it won't find its way back into our water supply,â€? Miller says. Again, Councilman Scott Hazen. “I don't know that it's safe to say that it’s David versus Goliath as much as it is that there's some 40,000 or 50,000 people that are involved in this process that apparently don't get any say at all.â€? Natural Gas production in the Utica Shale in Ohio would also generate wastewater. There's a proposal to drill in Ashland County where Mansfield is just down the road.