Wednesday, January 08, 2014

W.Va. study of natural-gas pollution failed to include waste from horizontal drilling

A West Virginia University researcher who led a state-sponsored study to examine potential pollution in natural gas drilling acknowledged that the report failed to include data on all types of wastes from the Marcellus Shale formation, Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette: "Teams performing the legislatively mandated review examined only materials from the vertical portion of wells, not from the horizontal drilling at those same sites, which would have included Marcellus Shale mud and drill cuttings. The omission is important because researchers believe material from the Marcellus Shale is generally more radioactive, and citizen groups are expressing growing concern about the risks of handling and disposal of radioactive drilling wastes."

During a legislative briefing on Sunday, Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of WVU's Water Research Institute, cited lack of access to data for not being able to test horizontal drilling, Ward writes. Ziemkiewicz said the state Department of Environmental Protection tried on three occasions "to obtain Marcellus drilling mud from a Stone Energy site in August 2012," but "were told each time that 'drilling malfunctions' made it impossible for them to do so."

When a second sampling site, this one operated by Chesapeake Energy, was selected, "poor weather related to Superstorm Sandy stopped the drilling there prior to reaching to Marcellus, Ziemkiewicz said," Ward writes. "The company indicated it would notify WVDEP and WVU when drilling resumed. However, when WVDEP followed up with the company after Hurricane Sandy, the agency and WVU were notified that the horizontal leg was completed and no samples were available." By then, Ziemkiewicz said, there wasn't enough time to analyze samples to complete the report by the end of 2012. (Read more)

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