Oil, gas must report hazardous materials

MARIETTA – People who live near Washington County’s oil and gas drilling operations might be alarmed with what they might find on site.

As of Sept. 21, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is requiring oil and gas producers to inform local first responders and emergency management agencies what hazardous chemicals are being stored and used in the drilling operations.

Hazardous chemicals such as barium sulfate, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde are chemicals typically used when wells are drilled and go into production.

Jeff Lauer, director of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency, said the Local Emergency Planning Commission was established to help the public respond to and become informed about possible hazards.

“(The requirement) follows all the local chemical plants,” Lauer said. “They have to send that to the local first responders so they know what they are dealing with. That’s a good thing.”

Aurelius and Adams townships each have three wells that have permits. Salem Township has one. Waterford Township has one well that has been drilled.

While Lawrence Township has no wells that have been drilled or permitted, resident Bob Clark, 69, who retired after 33 years at DuPont’s Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, said it’s a good idea to report the drill sites’ hazardous materials.

“If they respond to an accident, then they know what they are up against,” Clark said. “I worked with formaldehyde for years at DuPont, and I’m still kicking.”

Clark also said if the hazardous material is handled correctly, it wouldn’t cause a problem.

Lauer said the area chemical plants are required by law to file chemical inventories they have on site with local fire departments each March.

He said the reporting requirement for oil and gas producers report would be similar to the Material Safety Data Sheets most companies have on file in the workplace, listing what chemicals are on the work site, their properties and emergency information.

Salem Township Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Chris Biehl, 56, of Whipple, said everything about the hazards of the work area is a concern, including the gas, the pressure and the flammability. He said the firefighters attend training session several times per year to keep up on anything new.

“It’s always been the same thing, except you get a lot more pressure, so there needs to be a little more training with the new drilling (techniques) with the fracking and all,” said Biehl, who has been in fire service for 34 years.

Noble County Emergency Management Agency Director Chasity Schmelzenbach said she hasn’t seen an increase in the amount of chemicals since the ruling took effect.

A strategy that has helped in Noble County is conducting a quarterly safety roundtable, in which the drilling companies, first responders and the EMA can share information about anything new in the industry. The sessions, Schmelzenbach said, allow the county to ward off problems before they occur.

“We have had an increase in EMS calls, but nothing significant,” Schmelzenbach said. “You get that with any increase in population. Clearly, we have more people running around (with all the oil company employees).

“Communcation is key,” Schmelzenbach said.

Deborah Misel, of 1190 Dixon Ridge Road, Lowell, in Adams Township, has a drilling operation just below her home. She agreed informing emergency personnel about the hazardous chemicals used in the drilling is good for the people.

“You can’t treat a person for injuries received if you don’t know what they’ve been exposed to,” she said. “I didn’t take chemistry, but there’s some major stuff they use in their operation.”