CARROLLTON, Ohio (The Columbus Dispatch) – A deep, constant hum emanates from John and Elizabeth Neider’s dairy and sheep farm.
Depending on whom you ask, it’s either the sound of progress or a harbinger of environmental disaster.
The hum is created by a cluster of powerful pumps forcing millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into six deep wells.
As much as 5 million gallons of water per well are needed to shatter the Utica shale and release the natural gas and oil trapped thousands of feet underground.
It’s a process that’s likely to be repeated in eastern Ohio thousands of times over the next few years, and Carroll County residents will have front-row seats.
The state has issued permits to drill as many as 161 wells in Carroll County. It’s the most-concentrated cluster of such wells on a growing list of permitted well sites that cover 21 counties. If every well is drilled in Carroll County, companies will use as much as 805 million gallons of water to free the oil and gas. Across Ohio, as many as 2,250 Utica wells could be drilled by the end of 2015, according to state estimates.
Critics say that drilling and “fracking” pose a pollution threat to streams and groundwater. Industry officials say the process is safe. As that debate continues, the industry’s water consumption has grown into an issue of its own.
The change alone in Carroll County is huge. A Dispatch analysis of state water-use records shows that the county’s mineral-extraction industry, which includes drilling, used 3.5 million gallons of water in 2010.
That year, Carroll County residents, farms and businesses drew 378.7 million gallons of water from the ground, lakes and streams.
Where will these companies get the water they need?
“I told them we were dry this spring,” John Neider said about a conversation he had with the drilling company when it considered using his creek for fracking water. “Our creek is pretty much dry.” Drilling-industry and state officials insist there’s plenty of water for everybody. […]