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Ritchie County Disposal Well Leaking Frack Waste

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Monday, January 11, 2016   

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - A disposal well site in Ritchie County is leaking frack waste, according to a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection report.

After complaints from residents, the DEP took samples from around a Hall Drilling waste-injection well near Ellenboro last fall. Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Ben Stout examined the report and followed up by taking his own samples. He says disposal wells such as these are circled by smaller monitoring wells, and downhill from one of those is an open seep leaking onto the hillside.

"And they sampled that seep, and it obviously has contamination in it," says Stout. "That's extraordinary compared to the surrounding waterways. And it's a little bit worrisome."

That sample site showed elevated levels of salts, acidity, conductivity, total dissolved solids and some metals. Neither Hall Drilling nor the DEP replied to multiple requests for comment.

Stout says the contaminants are pretty clearly waste from Marcellus drilling. He says that suggests the disposal well may be breached, or that the integrity of the operation is otherwise compromised. Although he says at the time he found little sign of the contaminants reaching the surface water.

"We sampled the streams within the vicinity of it and we didn't see anything in the streams out of the ordinary. But there is leakage from the underground injection well," says Stout.

DEP documents show that the agency has discussed what steps the company should take, although it's unclear from the documents if the problem is now being dealt with.


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