Orphan Oil Well Project Complete

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The $150,000 remediation of an orphan oil well in the Village-owned floodplain near Talmadge Road and the Ottawa River is complete, with contractors putting the finishing touches on the project as they restore the wooded area where the well was re-discovered earlier this year.

According to state officials, crews drilled out the old well to a depth of 611 feet. The original well was likely more than 100 years old, according to Ben Harpster, an Inspector with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

Harpster said the old well was almost certainly an oil well.

"It was drilled for oil, based on the depth we reached," Harpster said. "They were well past the area [where you find] potable fresh water."

The original well casing was seven inches in diameter. Harpster said crews drilled out the old well, inserting a 9.75-inch diameter casing for the first 460 feet, which covers the area where fresh water can be found. From a depth of 460 to 611 feet, crews inserted a 6.5 inch in diameter casing. The entire 611 feet was then filled with a mixture of cement and water, to further seal the well.

"The well itself didn't have a lot of oil left in it," Harpster said. "There is still some intrusion in the river, and we expect it for a period of time."

Booms have been left in place to contain any residual oil that may find its way to the river. It appears oil from the well seeped through a break in the old casing, which allowed it to find a path underground to the river bed.

The well was discovered this spring by a resident who was out walking his dog. Many states consider abandoned oil wells with no responsible party to plug the well and restore the location, as orphaned wells.

Over the past few years, residents have reported occasionally smelling the odor of a petrochemical - possibly heating oil, kerosene, or asphalt - coming from the vicinity of the river, east of Talmadge Road. Environmental crews contacted by the Village made repeated trips to the vicinity over the past two years but were unable to locate the odor or a source, until this year.

Reports this March were of a persistent odor, and this time included sightings of an oily sheen on the river.

Northwest Ohio enjoyed an oil boom in the 1880s, especially in Wood county, which was dotted with hundreds upon hundreds of oil wells. From 1895 to 1903 Ohio was the top crude oil-producing state in the country. While western Lucas county did not experience the same boom as Wood county, it is not unlikely for a well to have been drilled prior to the establishment of the Village in 1915.

The cost of the project will be covered by the ODNR's Orphan Well Program, which was established in 1977. Since its inception, the fund has plugged more than 1,900 wells. The state also monitors the condition of an additional 700 orphan wells in Ohio.

Officials have indicated there may be hundreds of other orphan wells across the state, their locations a mystery due to lack of historical records. Over the past three years, the state has spent more than $4.5 million to plug a total of 57 orphan wells.

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