NEW MATAMORAS, Ohio — At first, the black hoses snaking through her property made no sense to Ginny Narsete.
She saw them one day as she walked near the cabin she owns next to the Wayne National Forest just east of Marietta. She hadn’t put them there. Neither had her husband, Jim.
Narsete followed a hose for a short distance, over a little stream and under some trees, until it went beneath the gravel driveway that leads to the couple’s cabin.
It came back up on the other side of the driveway and connected to an oil and gas well on her property that had been pumping for more than 30 years. It seemed odd to Narsete, so she kept looking. And she found more.
Some, like the first one she spotted, were laid over the ground. Others dangled from tree branches. Some crossed streams that feed the Ohio River, less than a half-mile from her cabin. Some were black, like the first one she’d seen. Others were orange.
The tubes are pipelines, according to the company that owns them, but not the large pipelines that carry oil and gas to refineries around the country. The black hoses send natural gas from traditional wells to houses in southeastern Ohio. The orange hoses carry gas into the larger pipeline network.
That alarms Narsete, who lives in Chicago but grew up near New Matamoras. She and her husband own 90 acres around their cabin, and she worries about fires that could expand to Wayne National Forest or spills that could contaminate the Ohio River.
“If this blows, if a hunter hits it or if lightning strikes, what’s going to happen?” Narsete said.
Houston-based oil and gas company Magnum Hunter said all the lines — those above ground, underground, in trees and leading through streams, are safe.
“There’s nothing unsafe about that,” said Amanda Finn, government relations manager for Magnum Hunter, which owns the well on Narsete’s property. “They’re literally all over Washington County.”
Although Ohio laws say pipelines should be buried, companies can ask the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for exemptions if the landscape doesn’t allow for it.
“If the bedrock is too strong to lay a pipe the prescribed 2 feet below the surface, ODNR can issue an exemption for above-surface pipes,” said Eric Heis, a department spokesman.
Natural Resources sent an inspector to Narsete’s property last week after a Dispatch reporter asked about the pipelines there. That inspector found that the lines running along the ground comply with the law, Matt Eiselstein, another ODNR spokesman, said in an email.
“Pipelines used for domestic-use gas in this area often are on the surface of the land, even in trees, due to the terrain and presence of shallow bedrock rendering line burial difficult and impractical for timely repair in the event of line breakages,” he wrote.
Narsete first noticed the lines in February, on a visit to the cabin. She found the others, which are visible all over the hillside near her land, on a visit this month.
“If there are pipelines through my property, shouldn’t they be marked? They’re not. That’s a concern,” she said. She and her husband bought the property in 2004 and spent nearly $100,000 fixing up the cabin. They planned to retire there. Now, they’re thinking about selling and are looking at land in Tennessee.
“We bought this place because we wanted to be close to my mom and because we wanted a sanctuary. That’s what it was for us,” she said. “I didn’t buy this place to watch it blow up.”