Even as the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline received federal approval in August, Fulton County residents within the Oak Openings region remain concerned about the project’s effect on the region’s aquifers and wetlands.
But the county’s health department considers potential water contamination in that area a low risk.
Terry Lodge, an attorney representing pipeline opponents, said the pipeline was diverted by NEXUS to avoid Oak Openings Metropark but still travels through a portion of the Oak Openings region. The current pipeline route travels along County Road A, turning north between County Road 3 and County Road 4. The area is mostly farmland but still contains wetlands, shallow aquifers, and about a mile of state forest.
The entire Oak Openings region runs roughly from at least Sylvania southwest into Fulton and Henry counties.
Lodge said the concern has been disruption of groundwater flow that could lead to contamination. He said installing the pipeline will require digging trenches to a depth of eight feet.
“The practical problems of construction is they’ll have to pump enormous amounts of water out of the trenches they build,” he said. “It’s going to affect the groundwater flow.”
And because NEXUS could replace the porous subsoil it removes with impermeable fill, “(it’s possible) things will back up subterranean, and groundwater will move differently,” Lodge said. “The fact that a lot of wells in the region are shallow, I think there could be serious implications.”
NEXUS spokesperson Adam Parker said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission called the pipeline’s impact to the Oak Openings region “less than significant in light of the project’s proposed mitigation and other mitigation measures…”
Parker noted that about 99 percent of the region’s ecosystem has already been altered by agricultural development. He said the pipeline project “will not result in the permanent fill of any wetland areas.”
And he pointed out that FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement regarding the project determined groundwater resources will not be significantly affected. The report said most of the construction will consist of shallow, temporary, localized excavation.
James Lee, a spokesperson for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, confirmed that NEXUS Gas Transmission had to obtain both the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Section 401 certification from the state for the pipeline project. Both are required for any individual or company wanting to place dredged or fill material into waters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. and the state.
In the state portion, the company was required to detail how streams and wetlands would be impacted by and managed during construction.
Lee said the Ohio EPA reviewed the applications to ensure they complied with state regulations, and held public hearings to get citizens’ feedback. He said both applications underwent rigorous scrutiny.
“It’s important to note that the changes they make can’t violate Ohio water quality standards,” he said.
Pat Wiemken, director of environmental health at the Fulton County Health Department, agrees risk is involved, since wells in the region are shallow at 15-20 feet deep, and draw their water from shallow aquifers. There is also concern that construction equipment could leak gas and oil into the aquifers.
Still, Wiemken believes the risk is minimal.
“The (pipeline) companies, overall, do a great job,” she said. “They know how to do it properly.”
She said residents in the region should remain vigilant when work on the pipeline begins. And she recommends water testing before and after the pipeline is installed. Testing should be completed for: total coliform enumeratoin and E. coli; nitrate and nitrite; total dissolved solids and iron; and semi volatile organics. If the last test proves too expensive, tests for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and Benzene Toluene Ethylbenzene Xylenes and 1,2,4-Trimethylbezene should be conducted.
“We want people to be aware of what could happen, ” Wiemken said.
NEXUS will conduct before-and-after water quality testing upon request, and repair, replace or compensate owners of wells that may be affected.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.