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Ohio Injection Wells Not Likely Source of Large Oil Waste Spill

Five injection wells near Youngstown, OH, that were thought to be the source of a roughly 2,000 gallon spill of oil and other waste into a pond and wetland have for now been ruled out, with state investigators attributing the spill to winter run-off from a nearby salvage yard.

The injection wells, located in Vienna Township, about 14 miles north of Youngstown in Trumbull County, are operated by Kleese Development Associates. The pond’s owner discovered contamination late last month and reported it to state regulators. The spill killed dozens of fish and other wildlife and riled the small community, where more than 100 residents reportedly turned out for a recent township trustee meeting to hear an update about the cleanup efforts.

Late last week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) ordered Kleese to cease operations at the site, saying in its order that "division inspectors responded and traced the spill back to an area near the Kleese surface facility. The division's investigation determined that the spill was likely related to operations at the Kleese surface facility."

But an ODNR representative, who wasn't sure the information had been publicly released, told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday that there was "nothing in the water directly related" to the injection wells, instead saying the oil and other waste found in the pond was likely sludge from a salvage yard that shares the property with the Kleese wells.

Kleese Development had already ceased operations at the site before ODNR issued its order and said Monday that it was conducting an internal review of the incident.

ODNR spokesman Eric Heis said that although the company has had violations in the past, those have been resolved and it was in compliance with the agency at the time its order was issued. Heis couldn't say with certainty if the salvage yard was to blame, adding that when investigators arrived at the site they discovered four empty brine containers with open valves that were thought to be the source of the spill. The investigation is still ongoing and the wells remain shut down.

Kleese could not be reached to comment on Thursday. Heis said ODNR, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and a private contractor were onsite cleaning-up the spill on Thursday. Heis said it wasn't clear who owned the salvage yard, but he said he doesn't believe Kleese is the owner. In any event, once the source is verified, Heis added that the responsible party will likely pay for the cleanup costs.

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