The purpose of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's public hearing on Wednesday was to solicit public comment on the proposal to issue permits for two injection wells in Columbus Township.
The residents from the township and surrounding communities voiced their concerns for two hours at the Columbus Social Hall.
Karen Johnson, chief of groundwater and enforcement branch of the Water Protection Division of the EPA in Philadelphia, began with a brief overview of the department's Underground Injection Control program and the basic goals of the laws surrounding underground sources of drinking water.
According to Johnson, the UIC program does not address or enforce issues such as noise, air emissions and truck traffic. The program does require operators to comply with all local and state laws and a UIC permit does not override local or state regulations.
"The purpose of the UIC permitting process for new wells is to control and prevent any injected fluids from endangering underground sources of drinking water," Johnson said.
A consultant for Bear Lake Properties gave a overview of the provisions of the Bear Lake project. After a brief presentation detailing the construction and depth of the injection wells, comments from the public were heard.
Elected officials were given the opportunity to voice their input on the proposed construction and operation of two Class IID injection wells to dispose of produced fluids, produced in association with oil and gas production operations.
Warren County Commissioner John Bortz said economic development in Warren County is a great concern, however, the majority of the people he has talked to have expressed concerns that question the management of the wells and whether the waste disposed is generated from the area or other areas of the state.
"I think there is a great deal of lack of information which has been presented to the citizens of Columbus Township, relative to this process," Bortz said.
Roger Wooden, Bear Lake Borough council vice president, voiced concern on the water supplies. While Wooden said the affects may not be currently felt, he was not convinced that the situation would be in 20 to 30 years.
"Where is this stuff coming from and why is our area picked to be the injection well?" Wooden asked.
Monty Johnson, vice president of the Bear Lake Volunteer Fire Department, voiced his concern over the possibility of an accident with a truck transporting the disposal fluid.
"What happens to us as fire department, not just Bear Lake, Columbus, Clymer, what do we do if one of these trucks flips over and spills all this stuff on our roadways?" Johnson said. "What are we to do as a fire department? How do we handle this?"
After the officials voiced their concerns, citizens of Columbus Township and the surrounding communities were given the opportunity to speak.
Questions stated for the official record included what precautions are taken to ensure there is no contamination of the drinking water, who will be responsible for the problem many years from now and how often are inspections on the sites done?
After the meeting the EPA officials were available for a informal question and answer session.
The next step is to process the testimony of written concerns that were submitted and then respond to the comments, questions and concerns with a written statement.