Pipeline Construction and Dewatering: Putting Our Water and Wells At Risk

Below are comments of the Fulton County Board of Health, submitted to FERC (April, 2015) regarding the Nexus gas transmission pipeline proposal.  This statement outlines the issues related to necessary dewatering during pipeline construction given the extremely high water table.

Dewatering means pumping large amounts of water out of a trench during pipeline construction.  This process represents potential damage to the entire aquifer, water quality and drinking wells.  The concerns outlined here would apply to any pipeline proposal for this part of Northwest Ohio.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently considering plans from Spectra Energy Corporation to construct the Nexus Pipeline to transport natural gas from Southern Ohio to Canada for processing. The potential route of the pipeline is through the geologically significant areas in Fulton, Lucas, and Henry Counties known as the Oak Openings Region (map included) of Ohio.

One of the traits that characterize the Oak Openings Region is the unconfined sand aquifer that provides potable water for the majority of individual households and businesses in this region. The sand in these areas extends from the ground surface to depths as much as 25 ft or more. In Fulton County, the majority of Swancreek, Pike and Dover townships contain the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer. In addition, portions of the aquifer extend into Fulton, Amboy, Royalton, Chesterfield, Franklin and German Townships.

The construction of shallow wells typically utilizing water from 10ft. to 20ft. below the ground surface is very common in this region. The fine sand and horizontal isolation from potential sources of contamination has enabled the wells developed in the unconfined sand aquifer to be used safely for generations.

The concern of the Fulton County Board of Health is the construction of this high pressure pipeline through the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer. This is an area with a natural high water table near or above the ground surface in many areas. The vehicles that will be used to install the pipeline have the potential to introduce contaminants directly to the aquifer such as diesel fuel, gasoline, hydraulic liquids, and other potential contaminants present in the construction phase.

It is expected that construction of the pipeline would require dewatering. The dewatering process has the potential to negatively affect the yields of the household wells located nearby.

Any event in the future that compromises the integrity of the pipeline structure has the potential to contaminate the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer and present a hazard for the thousands of residents using water from the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer.

The Fulton County Board of Health recognize that pipelines are necessary to transport Ohio’s energy to market, and we understand that reasonable safeguards will be put into
place along the miles of proposed pipeline. Under typical conditions, this may be adequate.
However, the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer is not a typical geology. The use of an unconfined sand aquifer by the majority of the rural population is not a typical scenario.

Public health is dedicated to the prevention of illness and hazards which may affect either the lifespan or the quality of life of community members. The risk of permanent contamination and short term dewatering of this vital aquifer is significant and avoidable.

We are concerned about the thousands of residents whose potable water supply could be negatively affected by the pipeline construction or any event affecting the integrity of the pipeline in the future.

The Fulton County Board of Health therefore respectfully requests that Spectra Energy Corporation consider any well-researched and presented reroute options during this planning phase that will avoid construction of the pipeline above and/or through the Oak Openings Sand Aquifer.

Note: Maps issued November 2015, show Nexus still proposing a route that would dig the pipeline through the Oak Openings sand aquifer.  Kinder Morgan proposes a similar route.