Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fayette County Frack Waste Injection Well Pit Ignores DEP Warnings

Critics say the DEP ordered a disposal well operation in Fayette County
to close waste pits at the site, but that was ignored.
They say the pits show signs of having overflowed their banks.
Photo by Beth Little.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - People living in the area of an injection disposal well operating without a current permit in Fayette County say it may be endangering their water. The waste fluid comes from natural gas fracking.

Beth Little, a member of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, lives about 50 miles from the well. She said the company has had serious toxic releases in the past, and disposal pits on the site are leaking chemicals into a creek that would supply emergency drinking water for Fayetteville.

"This underground injection well is dealing with highly toxic materials," she warned. "It should not be allowed to continue until the violations are fixed and the questions are answered."

West Virginia has nearly 800 class II disposal wells. According to an investigation by Pro-Publica, there were more than 80 failed pressure tests among those wells from 2008 to 2010, which could mean underground leaking.

Little said the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is badly shorthanded and often ends up ignoring waste injection wells like the one in Fayette County.

"This is a good example. We need to know that the state is able to properly manage the program in the whole state, so we know that the health and safety of our water is not affected," she said.

The well owner said he is operating the well properly, and the DEP is considering renewal of his lapsed permit. Little warned that his claims have to be examined more carefully, because in the past he has had releases of chemicals like hydrogen sulfide.

The well could affect a lot of people, she added.

"The stream that runs through his property is a tributary of Wolf Creek, which is also a major tributary to the New River and is the emergency back-up water supply for Fayetteville," she explained.

The state DEP said water testing shows no sign of fracking waste. Little said their separate testing shows barium, glycol and high levels of chlorides, all associated with fracking.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV