Updated 6:30 p.m. March 9 – Ken Messenger-Rapport notified Council President Cathy Murphy that he made an incorrect interpretation regarding potential monetary damages.
Several residents aren't ready to concede that gas wells will be built in .
At a meeting Tuesday night, they questioned representatives from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the safety and inspection of wells, including concerns about explosions and chemicals infiltrating the water supply.
"My understanding is that there's no way of remediating the water once it's been contaminated," said Ken Messenger-Rapport, treasurer of Friends of Euclid Creek. He added that settling the $7 million breach of contract lawsuit filed by Bass Energy could cost only about $27,000. However, after the meeting, he said he based his calculation on a statute that had an exception he had not noticed and the damages could be in the millions.
Council is expected to vote Tuesday on the lease for two wells, one near the tennis courts and one behind the old pool house. Council President Cathy Murphy reminded the audience of about 60 that the proposal is to settle the lawsuit filed by Bass Energy in July 2008.
"If it were a gas well for the sake of a gas well, that would be an obvious choice," Murphy said.
As for the potential cost of paying off Bass Energy and not drilling wells, Murphy said city officials have to go with the advice of its legal counsel, attorney John O'Neill.
Although one woman suggested that residents would be willing to even pay the full $7 million rather than have gas wells in the park, that viewpoint was not shared by all.
"To subject this city to a $7 million loss is absolutely stupid," resident John Graves said.
O'Neill started the meeting by outlining the history of the gas well issue, starting with council authorizing the mayor in January 2007 to lease three wells, two in the park and one by city hall. That March, he entered into the lease, which had language that the city must approve any sites.
He said Bass Energy obtained two permits and a gas well committee was formed in late 2007 to address potential locations. Then council rescinded the lease in January 2008, stating health and safety concerns and lack of good locations for wells. That prompted the Bass Energy lawsuit for breach of contract.
Although a 2008 charter amendment, passed by 73 percent of voters, prohibits park land from being sold or leased without voter approval, O'Neill said a judge ruled that amendment does not apply retroactively to the lease already signed.
But Love Our Green Space, which circulated those petitions, hinted at another avenue the group might take to stop the wells. Amy Feran asked Gene Chini of ODNR if drilling is allowed in wetlands and he replied, "If they're delineated wetlands, no."
According to resident David Lees, a 2006 report shows wetlands in the park, although the specific wetlands are is not delineated. Murphy said that is something the city is looking into doing.
Much of the meeting involved Bill Hlavin, Bass Energy president and owner, explaining what his company's plans are for the wells in the park.
He said the wells would be drilled to a depth of 3,300 to 3,500 feet and would then be hydraulically fractured with a mixture that is 99.5 percent water.
"All of the wells in Ohio are fracs," Hlavin said. "So this is a well that would be hydraulically fractured. But not in the same sense that the shale wells are being fractured."
Hlavin said the wells would not use massive quantities of water to fracture – about 70,000 gallons compared to 1 million or more in shale drilling. The wells would be sloped, going down and then out about 600 feet, which he said is much different that the horizontal, directional wells talked about in the media.
"This is simply a well drilled on an angle," Hlavin said.
There are eight active wells in Highland Heights and there have been no reported problems with them, Fire Chief William Turner said. Bass Energy owns five of those among the more than 100 it operates in Cuyahoga County.
Hlavin said he's drilled more than 1,000 wells in his career and had only two incidents, one involving a mechanical failure on new equipment and another in 2009 when a landscaper hit a gas well head in Mayfield Heights.