The aquifer supplying Springfield’s water is shielded from any possible effects of fracking in northeast Ohio’s Utica shale, according to a local expert.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of drilling water-based fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas inside.
The process is being performed in 21 counties across Ohio. Some believe the process is harmful to groundwater and the environment, and might be linked to recent earthquakes. Its proponents believe fracking could be an economic stimulus to the state and lead to cheaper gas and oil.
The industry could bring up to 200,000 jobs to the state by 2015 from the Utica shale boom. There are nearly 450 shale wells in Ohio, which use about 5 million gallons of water per well.
Wittenberg University geology Professor John Ritter said the area won’t see any negative effects of fracking because the local water supply comes from the Mad River Buried Valley Aquifer.
“Our aquifer is bound by these old valleys,” Ritter said. “There’s essentially no risk that fracking in northeast Ohio would affect us simply because you have barriers that are both geologic and topographic between here and there.”
The area that drains into the aquifer and recharges it is approximately the same boundary as the Mad River watershed, Ritter said. That means that even if fracking did occur here, it still wouldn’t have much effect on the local aquifer.
“Unless it’s an extremely deep impact, there would be no impact,” Ritter said. “We just don’t have those deep aquifers. The flow directions on those deep aquifers aren’t going to do it either.”
Ritter said it’s important the area doesn’t have any connections to northeast Ohio because the Mad River Valley Buried Aquifer is a sole-source aquifer.
“Our sole source of water comes from that aquifer,” Ritter said.
Local economic development leaders in southwest Ohio have used the water supply here as a marketing tool in the past.
While the aquifer is shielded from any possible effects of fracking, Springfield Economic Development Administrator Tom Franzen said the city won’t market the water supply here any more than it has in the past.
“It’s unaffected by fracking from that standpoint,” Franzen said.
Franzen said the Dayton Development Coalition recently used the water supply in the region to help market the area for economic development purposes.
“It’s difficult, but it’s a valuable resource,” Franzen said. “There are a lot of other places who have access to water as well. It’s a good thing to have, but it’s certainly not the be all, end all, in a project. It just depends on what the projects needs are.”