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Lawrence and Douglas County officials express concerns about saltwater injection wells

October 24, 2017

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City of Lawrence and Douglas County officials are raising concerns about a proposal to allow wastewater injection wells in the area.

The wells would be located in rural Douglas County about 5 miles southeast of Lawrence, and would be injected with a saltwater byproduct from oil or gas extraction processes. City and county officials are requesting that the state delay the review process for the permit until they are provided data showing the injections aren’t harmful.

“When you’re evaluating something like that, it seemed to us that it should be fact-driven in terms of all the consequences that could result from an installation like this,” City Manager Tom Markus said. “There are several different injection well possibilities in terms of what they are doing with it, how they’re doing it. Some of that analysis just seems like it should be ensconced in our review procedures at the state level, or whoever that permitting agency might be.”

Florida-based Midstates Energy Operating LLC filled permit applications for two wells with the state to inject the saltwater. The property is located along North 1000 Road, also known as County Road 458. The applications note a maximum injection of 100 barrels per day for each well, which totals 8,400 gallons of wastewater per day.

The Kansas Corporation Commission’s oil and gas conservation division decides whether to approve permits for new wells, but members of the public and entities can file a protest against a proposed well during a 30-day protest period. As of last year, there are about 175 wells related to the oil and gas industry in Douglas County, but only two are saltwater disposal wells, according to KCC spokeswoman Linda Berry.

Markus and Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug submitted a letter last week to the KCC that raised several concerns about the review process for injection wells. The letter requested that the KCC indefinitely extend Midstates Energy Operating’s protest period until an analysis is provided that shows the injections will not endanger underground water resources or increase the risk of earthquakes.

The risk has dramatically jumped in Oklahoma for earthquakes caused by disposal of wastewater, according to The Associated Press. Considering those trends, Weinaug said they were concerned about whether the KCC review of the requested injection wells was actually a substantive review.

“We know the neighboring state of Oklahoma has had huge problems with earthquakes and damage that has occurred,” Weinaug said. “And we don’t know whether they have done an analysis to make sure it protected any water tables or water resources. And so essentially, the letter just said (the protest period) doesn’t give us enough time to make sure our residents are protected.”

The letter requested three changes to the injection well permitting process, the first being that the protest period be increased to 60 days to give staff of local governments time to review applications and submit any proposed action to the governing body for decision.

The second request is that cities and counties be directly notified when an injection well permit is requested. Markus said the city wasn’t made aware of the proposal until residents voiced concerns to the City Commission last week, and it had limited time to respond.

The third is that the burden of proving that an injection well will not be harmful be shifted to the oil and gas industry and the KCC. The letter states that the current process of requiring those with concerns to demonstrate that a well would be harmful may be an “unrealistic expectation” for the average resident.

The letter was sent on Thursday, and as of Monday neither the city nor the county had received a response from the KCC. However, Berry told the Journal-World that the protest period will be restarted due to an error made by Midstates Energy Operating.

The 30-day protest period is initiated when the company publishes a notification of the application in the official newspaper. The notification was published in the Journal-World earlier this month, but erroneously indicated that the protest period is 15 days, according to Berry. Berry said that because of the error, the notification must be republished and the 30-day protest period will begin again at that time.

A representative for Midstates Energy Operating did not immediately return a phone call from the Journal-World requesting comment about the issue.

Comments

TJ Tesdahl 1 month, 3 weeks ago

It seems like this is fracking, without calling it that outright.

..how did that work out for Flint, Michigan?

Ken Lassman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Salt water injection is a byproduct of the fracking process and not fracking per-se. In other words, the fracking process injects solvents and other liquids at high pressure into the oil production strata, fracturing the layer in order to extract the oil/gas. The fossil fuel is "contaminated" by waste water, which is a combination of brine found with the oil/gas and the fracking fluid. It looks to me like the fracking fluids used to fracture the oil/gas bearing strata is typically around 40,000 gal. of volume, but the waste water that comes up with the gas/oil is on the order of millions of gallons.

It's the reinjection of all of that waste water that is the concern, not the fracking per se, tho there would be no millions of gallons of brackish waste water to inject back into the ground if it were not for the fracking in the first place. Does that make sense?

Calvin Anders 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I was feeling comfortable looking down my nose and what idiots they were in Oklahoma to allow fracking to destroy their state even as the evidence of their stupidity mounted as earthquake after earthquake acted as a monstrous and repeated wake up call. Such silly and dim people. Now I have to acknowledged that I too live in a state that is too stupid to avoid cutting off their own nose despite their face. It makes me a little sick to my stomach. I'm worried about being poisoned by ground water contamination. And I'm worried about damage and danger from an inevitable jump in seismic activity. It is amazing to me that we elect people to our legislature who are too greedy and stupid to act in their own self interests, let alone the interests of their constituents. I can understand (if not forgive) the greed. But the willingness to destroy the place they live is puzzling.

TJ Tesdahl 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Burn the world to roast marshmallows?

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Do not permit fracking at all in Douglas County.

Brock Masters 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Are they actually requesting to conduct fracking or to dispose of waste water from fracking? Either way we shouldn’t allow DG county to be used as a dump.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Frankly, I'd like to see how all of those existing wells have behaved in Douglas County, since over the years our well has produced increasingly brackish water. I was told that this was because the water table was dropping from use, resulting in increasingly brackish water from deeper down. How can I tell whether the salty water is for this reason, or because of some irresponsible, incorrect reinjection of waste waters from existing oil wells in Douglas County?

Armen Kurdian 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Lots of correlations between the injections and earthquakes, but there's been studies that show more likely connections between disposal wells vice recovery wells. It's impossible to directly connect the cause and effect, but the correlation is way too strong to ignore.

8,400 gallons doesn't sound like a lot, isn't there another way to dispose of it, say by desalinization or other separation methods?

Cille King 1 month, 3 weeks ago

8,400 gallons per day = 3,066,000 gallons per year. 3 million + gallons gives a different picture of the problem.

Michael Kort 1 month, 3 weeks ago

What is interesting is all of the chemicals that they add to fracking fluids to lubricate their drill heads and to form barriers to groundwater invasions of wells and in wasted surface sanitary disposal pits, like Bentonite clays in all of its many forms .

Look up bentonite and its uses on wikipedia .

Oil is naturally driven to well heads by natural gas, already in the ground, which it comes up with in the oil wells production and is naturally odorless until it is scented with something stinky like mercaptan .

So, what will they be doing with this natural gas ? and are these oil ? or gas ? wells or both ? which obviously requires separation of the two, from ground water ?

I have seen people on TV in areas where fracking went wrong turn on their kitchen sink and light the water stream off into flames from the odorless natural gas present in their pumped in well water !

Scary, as natural gas in ground water used inside of a house could build up undetected by the nose;...... and of course, the article describes this company as an LLC, so good luck getting it's owners to pay for any real damages that they do corporately, no matter how big or whatever .

If they have corporate insurance, the insurer will fight you tooth and nail .

Will they just flair off the natural gas ? which just makes it harder to drive future oil to the well head by any natural means ?

Being old brick buildings, downtown would be the most vulnerable place to earthquakes effects in Lawrence.........that is a guess based on old brick buildings collapsing elsewhere, nationally and around the world, during earthquakes ,

Michael Kort 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Go and look up LLCs .....Limited Liability Corporations .

You can sue the LLC corporation but the owners assets outside of that corporate rented office, the rented equipment ( Get the message ? ) etc., are protected from being sued for the liabilities of the LLC company, even though they run it and make poor decisions affecting others well being or refuse to run it responsibly or are just incompetent or employ lunatics who damage others somehow, etc..

So you thought that they were just Kansas Tax Dodges ?.............well, they are also " liability get home free cards " for their owner partners .

So how much insurance are LLCs forced to carry vs the risk of damage that they pose in possible reality to be in business in Kansas ?......if any ?

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