February 11, 2015


(Grand Rapids, OH) Planned large pipeline installations for Northwest Ohio are causing concern for many people, especially those who are targeted to have them installed near their residence. An additional concern that many are not aware of is the specific geology throughout the area that could cause problems, both upon installation and in the future.

Much of Northwest Ohio is in Karst Terrain, which means the geology is made up of layers of carbonate rocks. Carbonate rocks are known to be dissolved by water, especially acidic water. Because sinkholes can be found throughout the area, and some go undetected when they are formed underground, there is a real concern that a pipeline could unknowingly be built over underground terrain containing what is called “incipient” sinkholes. The fact that there are earthquake fault zones in the area compounds the likelihood of sinkholes due to the channeling of water along underground faults and fissures.

“Most people do not know about the huge 42” high pressure pipelines that are planned for Northwest Ohio to carry gas from unconventional shale drilling (fracking) to markets, mostly export markets out of the Dawn Hub in Ontario, Canada,” stated Lea Harper, Managing Director of FWAP. “The only people directly contacted about these pipelines are the property owners in the path of the pipeline. They are obviously alarmed because of the blast danger in proximity to their homes and the decline in property values. But all those living in Northwest Ohio and especially those who care about forests, ecosystems and the Maumee River need to know about the potential impacts of these proposed pipelines because of the underlying geology and what can happen during pipeline installation and over time.”

The ET Rover pipeline is a dual, side-by-side, 42” high pressure pipeline proposed to run through Ohio, across southern Wood County and under the Maumee River North of Defiance. The Nexus is a single 36” or 42” large pipeline that will cross under the Maumee River near Waterville at Farnsworth Metropark. Farnsworth Metropark is being surveyed for the Nexus pipeline. It is not known who gave permission to a pipeline company to survey a metropark. When the possibility of incipient sinkholes are present in an area, and there are plans to cross a huge waterway such as the Maumee River, not only is there a risk that the pipelines could collapse underground due to sinkhole formation on land, but a huge body of water could be drastically affected.

Sinkhole risks are outlined here: Drilling under riverbeds with a large sinkhole present or in the future could be especially harmful to a large river body such as the Maumee River. Of course, in the worst case, if a pipeline intersected an unknown sinkhole, the river would fill it up to be carried away below surface, decreasing the flow of the Maumee River. There could more water lost because of underground flow through caverns, if connected.

If a sinkhole formed after a pipeline was built, not only could the water flow be drastically reduced, the resultant leak or rupture of a large, high-pressure pipeline carrying gas from unconventional shale drilling could release radon from the radioactive materials brought to surface by the fracking process. No one knows the levels of radon in fracked gas at any moment in a large volume pipeline, but any amount of water soluble radium would pose a risk to drinking water supplies and would be impossible to clean up.

Once pipeline right-of-ways are established and the pipeline is built, they can also be reversed or carry different material. That is what caused the catastrophic Kalamazoo River pipeline rupture in Michigan that has so far cost almost $800 million dollars to clean up and is still not fully remediated. The especially corrosive and abrasive contents of dilbit were blamed for the failure of the pipeline. Without completely characterizing the material flowing through pipelines over time, there is a risk that corrosive, radioactive materials could compromise pipeline steel and coating integrity causing catastrophic rupture.

“Common sense would say that it is just not a good idea to locate large, high pressure pipelines in densely populated areas with karst terrain, and especially under a large and important river like the Maumee,” continued Lea Harper. “Additional pipeline capacity to carry billions of cubic feet of fracked gas per day would not be necessary if it wasn’t to export the gas to other countries for a higher price. It is baffling to think that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would allow such a project, let alone issue a Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience that would allow eminent domain to take private property to build these for-profit pipelines.”

FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) began in Southeast Ohio to raise awareness and oppose the massive destruction of freshwater supplies by fracking, which consumes over five million gallons of water per frack – water that is gone forever from the water cycle. What is left is a huge hazardous and radioactive waste disposal problem in Southeast Ohio. Pipelines being built to provide the infrastructure required to carry fracked gas to markets are now a threat to property values, ecosystems and water supplies in the northern part of the state. Very little of this fracked gas will be used to heat Ohio homes, and it is questionable without knowing the radon content if fracked gas should even be allowed to enter homes.

Scoping meetings have been completed for the ET Rover pipeline, which is approximately six months ahead of Nexus in the FERC permitting process. Plans are being made to intervene in the ET Rover permitting process and to protest the Nexus pipeline at the Open Houses this week. In Wood County, there will be an information/organizing meeting on February 18 at 6:30 pm at Grounds for Thought on Main Street in Bowling Green. Similar regional efforts are ongoing throughout the state as concerned Ohioans organize to protect their property values, personal health and safety and natural environment.

Affected property owners dispute the pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain to enable the export of fracked gas as a violation of property rights. The additional natural gas carrying capacity is not necessary for Ohio’s natural gas needs. People are writing letters to their elected officials and FERC demanding that FERC not issue a permit, which would create a false claim for eminent domain power to take private property by the private, for-profit pipeline companies. Townships, municipalities and counties are issuing resolutions against them. There will be a meeting on March 3 with the Wood County Commissioners to ask for such a resolution. More information can be found at Ohioans Against Pipelines for Export on Facebook.