CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Scattered throughout 33,000 acres of land, at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, are more than 88 gas and oil wells.
“Virtually every corner you turn you'll see evidence of a well. You might see the plunger, the typical plunger or the gas holder tanks, but you'll see some type of evidence of oil and gas in this park,” said Veronica Dickerson, Environmental Protection Specialist.
Dickerson says the wells were drilled decades ago dating back to the early 30s. She says at least a dozen wells currently pose health and environmental risks, including water and soil contamination and well leaks.
“We have no money. We have no one to go after. So, when we're talking about, like a contaminated site for example, we can do research and find the responsible party, but in this particular situation where we have these abandoned oil and gas wells, there's no one left for us to go after,” she explained. “It becomes incumbent either upon us as the federal agency or the state of Ohio.”
However, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last November, three of those wells are set to be remedied and plugged using $1 million of the $33 million earmarked for projects across Ohio.
“It puts that land back to public use and just gives it back to the public. So, the public benefits the animals and the wildlife, the flora and fauna,” said Dickerson. “Gives us an opportunity to target the invasive species and things along those lines. We're making sure there's native vegetation that's going to repopulate the area.”
While this investment will cause park closures and detours, officials believe the work will pay off for generations to come.
“The goal of the National Park Service is kind of that ‘leave no trace’ philosophy. You know, when you come to the park, we want you take the trash home with you. That's the philosophy of removing these oil and gas wells. So, the entire footprint and as much of the piping Infrastructure that's below ground that we can remove, we will remove,” Dickerson said.