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Live Near a Proposed Injection Well? Look Online to Find Out

Oil and gas wells that are tapped out can be re-purposed to store industrial waste. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
Oil and gas wells that are tapped out can be re-purposed to store industrial waste. (Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation)
August 12, 2019

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A new online map helps people find out if any waste-injection wells are being permitted near them. The map pinpoints all the sites in Michigan where companies have applied to dump toxic waste from oil and gas exploration.

Peggy Case, president of the group Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation, said even though the waste is injected 4,000 feet underground, Michigan is riddled with old well bores that could allow it to seep elsewhere.

"There's all these holes in the ground already. It's already a pincushion,” Case said. “So there's ample opportunity for wastewater to migrate up into the aquifers."

The map is on the homepage of savemiwater.org, and was created by an eighth-grade student in Ann Arbor as part of a middle school sustainability project, with help from MCWC Board Member John McClane. Fracking wastewater can contain high levels of salt, dangerous chemicals and sometimes even radioactive material, but the Environmental Protection Agency has taken the position that injection wells are safe.

Each well permit carries a 60-day public comment period. If enough people raise concerns about a well proposal, the EPA will be forced to hold a public hearing. Case said permit applications from out-of-state companies have increased in recent months, so she'd like the Whitmer administration to block more of them.

"The previous administration was more than happy to let anybody who wanted to come in and dump their stuff in Michigan,” Case said. “We have not figured out what the latest administration is willing to do, but we're hoping that they will begin to resist some of this stuff. We just haven't seen it yet."

The website identifies the proposed well sites, links to their permits, and lists any streams, rivers, lakes or communities that might be affected. However, Case noted it can be difficult to determine the true purpose of a well, because the EPA has weakened rules in recent years to allow companies to declare certain details proprietary and keep them secret.

Disclosure: Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation contributes to our fund for reporting on Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI