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State Ramps Up Efforts to Plug ‘Orphan’ Wells

Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 4:47 PM

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Hundreds of thousands of oil and gas wells have been drilled in Ohio since the Civil War, and many were never properly closed off Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports a state agency is stepping up efforts to plug these wells.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has found more than 600 abandoned oil and gas wells, also known as orphan wells, around the state. These wells date as far back as the 1890’s and some fear could pose a threat to water and public safety.

Mark Bruce, a spokesperson for ODNR, says the department hopes to start plugging about 100 orphan wells a year. But he says the key to fixing the orphan well problem is knowing where they are.

“We need assistance from the public,” said Bruce, “we need people who may own land somewhere in the state of Ohio may visit a neighbors farm or hike in a woods somewhere if they see something that they believe is an oil and gas well—they need them to contact our division so we can find out if in fact that is an orphan well and if it does qualify for our program.”

The General Assembly recently increased funding to ODNR’s orphan well program. Bruce says modern day drilling regulations prevent any new abandoned wells.

Andy Chow at the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. 

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