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Oil and gas company speaks out about drilling concerns

(WILX)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 6:38 PM EST
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A company looking to drill oil and gas in Mason is speaking out after claims that the project would pose a health risk to the community. Jordan Development Company asked the state to approve their request to drill.

However, Mason Public Schools asked the state to do the opposite because they're concerned about high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the well.

Superintendent Ronald Drzewicki wrote a letter to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on Tuesday expressing their concerns about the gas in the well.

"They don't have any knowledge of that," said Ben Brower, Chief Operating Officer for Jordan Development Company. "How could they know it's gonna emit high quantities of H2S? The formation may contain H2S in it just like a lot of other wells in that area have. However, they're making some assumption that it's going to escape into the atmosphere. I don't know why they would make that assumption. When we drill wells and produce them, we produce all of the oil and the gas into tanks and then into trucks and then we take it off-site, or via pipeline (and) we take it off-site. So to say it's going to pose a health risk--we have never in our company's history, ever had anybody complain. We operate over 400 wells and nobody's complained about any health risk."

Mason Public Schools Superintendent Ronald Drzewicki tells News 10 he became concerned about the potential health risks to staff and students after reviewing documents from 1976. The documents from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources suggests oil and gas exploration at a local well was abandoned by Mobil Oil Corporation because of the high risk associated with elevated hydrogen sulfide levels.

Brower says the well his company is looking to drill is miles away from the site.

"I saw the letter they sent to the state. What I would say to that is the state already answered that at the hearing-at the meeting last week and said 'hey, there weren't any hydrogen sulfide rules in 1975.' They didn't come out until the '90s. So since then any type of H2S well is--has to be scrutinized and produced a certain way with certain types of materials to prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere," said Brower.

Still, Mason Public Schools Parent Kayla Serino says she can't believe the company is considering drilling so close to children. The proposed drilling site is located within 2,000 feet of Mason High School.

"They can say that the risks are very low, but there is no such thing because of the technology and everything. There is no such thing as infallible equipment and the emergency crew that would respond to any emergency situation can fail as well. Nobody is foolproof," said Serino.

The proposed site is located on the south side of Kipp Road just east of the railroad in Vevay Township. Jordan Development says more than 130 people who live in the area have signed leases to get a share of any potential profit.

Cierra VanOflen, a Mason Public Schools parent who lives just a block away from the high school says she denied the offer. Like Mason Public Schools, VanOflen wrote a letter to the state asking them to deny the permit.

"To us, this is our home. I just don't want to have to worry about long term effects and we just moved here. We thought this would be a forever home but if it goes south- who's to say that it will be," said VanOflen.

Brower says the company will continue to educate and work with the public.

"We don't want to be out here and disrupt people's lives. We truly believe this is going to be a win-win for everybody. Win for the township, they'll get some taxes, win for the local people that will have some royalties in this. So we think this will be for a win for the community and we just really don't believe there's gonna be any issues. Otherwise, we wouldn't be out here doing this," said Brower.

Superintendent Drzewicki says he hopes the state makes the right decision.

They are taking public comments until the end of the month then are expected to decide in one to three months.

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