Commissioners get answers on slurry leak

LISBON – County commissioners on Wednesday were given some answers about the slurry leak in the wetlands on County Home Road.

Willie Brantingham of the Local Emergency Planning Committee told commissioners the substance has been identified as bentonite, a clay, mineral and water mixture, which has many uses including cooling drill bits during the drilling process. He assured commissioners the substance is not toxic and has been used in cattle feed, food and cosmetics.

More of a concern is the fact that there is no reportable amount listed for the substance. In other words, how much has to leak before notifying the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is required.

According to Brantingham, the first spill was actually on Oct. 24, but the county did not learn about it until the second spill occurred on Oct. 30. At that point it was Caitlyn Johnson, involved in a community group, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, who notified the county of the spill, not someone with the company installing the pipeline, Access Midstream, or the contractor, DRS Drilling.

Brantingham said he spoke with someone at the worksite and Brantingham said the man was surprised the county was not notified. The Ohio EPA reportedly was notified.

With the LEPC charged with responding to all hazardous spills in the area, the main concerns expressed by Brantingham and commissioners were more about what happens in the future if a spill is hazardous. Brantingham said he has spoke with county Engineer Bert Dawson, who has agreed to add a page explaining how to report a spill locally to the LEPC in the permits packet contractors receive in his office when they are planning to drill in the county.

Commissioner Mike Halleck noted something like this is new and has not happened here before, but he would like everyone on the same page when and if it occurs in the future.

Brantingham agreed the spill was not intentional, but can happen whenever someone hits a void pocket underground when there is drilling already happening in the area.

In other matters, commissioners noted the courthouse will be closed on Monday in observance of Veterans Day.