Napalm Creek

Crowd overflows at Portage meeting to discuss natural gas drilling

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published: January 26, 2012 - 12:00 AM | Updated: January 26, 2012 - 08:39 AM

RANDOLPH TWP.: One Portage County resident told an overflow crowd meeting at the Randolph Community Center on Wednesday night about drinking water problems with his well.

Steve Kitchen told an audience of more than 150 that his problems began in September at a time when the Chesapeake Energy Corp. was drilling a natural gas well in neighboring Suffield Township.

The meeting, billed as an informational discussion about gas and oil drilling, was organized by township trustees.

Black-gray clay and sand came from his spigot on Hartville Road in Randolph Township, Kitchen said. The mud nearly clogged his toilet lines. “I thought that was my problem,” he said. But the problems continued. Water pressure dropped, and Kitchen had to clean the black-gray clay from his sump and the filter on his water softener.

His water pump had to be replaced. It had burned out. That cost $552.

Kitchen said his home is about two miles away via roads from the Chesapeake well.

For 20 years, he had never had a problem there. “But it happened to me,” he said.

His water is still dark and his water softener is now plugged, he said. “If it can reach me, it can reach you,” he said.

“They put the well in and I suddenly had problems.”

No one from Chesapeake was at the meeting to address Kitchen’s problems.

Another Randolph resident, Joseph Mosyjowski, called for a moratorium on drilling in the township, to the applause of the crowd.

But the Ohio Legislature in 2004 took control of drilling away from local communities. Speakers Newt and Sandra Engle of the grass-roots group Preserve Rural Randolph said both were concerned and worried about the process called fracking, a method of drilling for oil and gas.

Speaker Dan Lincoln of the grass-roots group NEOGAP (Network for Ohio and Gas Accountability and Protection) told the audience that the increased drilling is going to “change your lives.” He cited increased traffic, noise, and air and water pollution problems.

Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, defended the industry and explained the drilling process to the audience. She said according to the latest revised estimates, Ohio is likely to get 3,800 wells drilled into what is called the Utica shale formation in the next five years.

The technology is increasing greatly and might be able to recover 70 to 80 percent of the natural gas underground 20 years from now, she said. At present, the industry gets about 20 percent recovery.

The Preserve Rural Randolph group said it will meet again to discuss drilling issues at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the community center.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.

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