Proposed Summerfield Injection Well Raises Concern

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Trendwell Energy oil well on Ida Center Rd. just northwest of Alcott Rd. in Summerfield Township. (Photo credit: Monroe News photo by TOM HAWLEY)

Article courtesy of Alex Alusheff | January 16, 2015 | Monroe News | Shared as educational material

Trendwell Energy Corp. is eyeing a location in Summerfield Township as the site of a saltwater brine injection well.

The proposed injection well would be located along Ida Center Rd. near Alcott Rd. with a depth between 765 feet and 1,200 feet, according to a permit application provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The injection well will house the natural saltwater brine that appears when drilling for oil or gas in active wells, said Richard Sandtveit, vice president of engineering for Trendwell, which is based in Rockford.

Trendwell operates three active oil wells in Summerfield along Ida Center. Any naturally occurring brine encountered would be transported into the injection well if it’s built, Mr. Sandtveit said.

The wells sit on the Trenton Black River Formation. Drilling crews have encountered the brine before, but not in the Summerfield wells, he said. “We’re trying to get the permit ready for the possibility of it,” Mr. Sandtveit said.

Township officials and residents, however, are concerned the proposed well will leave a salty taste in their mouths.

“Water in this area is a precious commodity,” said township Supervisor John Chandler. “ Putting in contaminated wastewater to the ground is a risk to our freshwater supply.”

The township has a karst topography, which is a landscape formed by soluble rock — in this case limestone.

Amy Reiter, chairman of the township planning commission, is worried that the injection well could leak into the limestone formation and spread throughout the area and into aquifers, which feed residents’ wells, their main water supply.

Trendwell Energy oil well on Ida Center Rd. just northwest of Alcott Rd. in Summerfield Township. (Photo credit: -Monroe News photo by TOM HAWLEY)

“The residents of Summerfield Township have a right to feel they have safe drinking water,” Ms. Reiter said. “ We have to live here … and we can’t drink saltwater.

The township planning commission recently recommended the township board write a letter to the EPA in opposition to the proposed well. The board will decide on the recommendation at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the township hall, 26 Saline St., Petersburg.

The EPA also is accepting public comments on the permit application until Wednesday. Comments can be e- mailed to elkins. timothy@epa.gov requesting a public hearing be arranged if specific issues are raised.

Mr. Sandtveit said the possibility of the well contaminating the water is highly improbable.

“The EPA has procedures for testing the casing for leaks, and we do pressure monitoring on the wells ourselves,” he said.

Three layers of casing would protect the well, along with a layer of concrete. The first level of casing would be 11.75 inches thick and extend 300 feet below the surface. Another layer would be 8.62 inches thick and extend 465 feet, while the third layer would be 5.5 inches thick and extend 800 feet, according to the permit.

“From an engineer’s perspective, it’s darn near impossible,” Mr. Sandtveit said. The zones we inject in are nowhere close to groundwater.

” A possible source of underground drinking water has been identified to be 200 feet below the surface at most, which would leave at least 565 feet between the injection site ( and thus the saltwater brine dispersal) at nearly 800 feet below ground and the possible drinking water source, according to the EPA documents.

While the casings may not leak, Mr. Chandler said it may not be able to withstand a natural disaster.

“The earth moves, the ground shifts. This can create cracks over a period of time and it’s not safe,” he said.

If somehow a leak were to occur, Trendwell would be responsible to “minimize or correct any adverse impact on the environment,” according to the permit.

“Being the operator, we would be looked at by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA to take care of it,” Mr. Sandtveit said.

Mr. Chandler hopes that scenario never happens.

“What happens if it does affect the water supply? Residents will come to the township and ask ‘ Why did you allow it?’ ” he said. “ We don’t really have a say in this issue because the township can’t regulate the oil exploration process, it’s a state statute. It’s a very helpless feeling. Once the water is gone, it’s gone.”
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