Lochghelly Injection Well
12:13 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Fayette Fracking Waste Permit Granted, National Group Reacts

Above ground waste pond sits close to the underground injection wells in Fayette County.
Above ground waste pond sits close to the underground injection wells in Fayette County.
Credit Jessica Lilly

The Natural Resource Defense Council is disappointed with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to renew a permit for an underground injection well in Fayette County.

The permit allows Danny Webb Construction to accept fluids from oil and gas exploration, development drilling, and production fluids for another five years.

The DEP renewed the permit earlier this month for a class two UIC, or underground injection control disposal well owned by Danny Webb Construction. The permit had expired in 2012. Residents and even former construction workers testified at a public hearing in June 2013 strongly opposing the site.

Upon evaluation DEP workers found a pit filled with fracking water and other waste from oil and gas drilling. The pit was used to help remove sediments from the waste before injecting underground.

The DEP found that the pit or pond above ground does not meet the minimum pit and impoundment standards.

Although the DEP did not find the pit to be leaking, officials say it needs to be upgraded.

Underground Injection Control Permit Reviewer for the DEP Office of Oil and Natural Gas James Peterson told West Virginia Public Radio that the pit needs a leak detection system and a new liner. Peterson says the operator was told to submit a plan to fix the issues with the pit, but never did. Still while the DEP waited on the plan, the operator could continue to accept and inject waste underground in the well.

The Natural Resource Defense Council sent a letter to the DEP the same day our original story aired last month. In the statement, the council urged the department to shut down the wells since Danny Webb Construction was not operating with a valid permit.

Amy Mall is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resource Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy group.

"This is a site that should already have a plan," Mall said. "The DEP, its inspectors have determined that there have been multiple violations for years at that site and it’s just unacceptable that they don’t have a plan now. That’s just laughable, really. It’s no way to protect public health and the environment."

In an email, Peterson said the site has only been issued 5 citations or violations in the past 10 years.

Still a permit was granted for the injection well with the condition that the company close the above  ground waste pit.

Residents have spoken out against this well and the waste pond near the well for years.  The NRDC is not the only group that has spoken out in opposition of this site; the Plateau Action Network, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and the Sierra Club have also sent letters to the DEP.

Mall says the issues the NRDC takes with this pit in Fayette County is the same for wells across the country. Mall says federal law that governs hazardous waste has a loophole for oil and gas waste that was created in 1980’s through an amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Mall says a bill introduced this past summer in Washington could help close this loophole. The NRDC is supporting the `CLEANER Act’ or the `Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations Act of 2013'.

Danny Web Construction currently has another UIC permit under consideration for renewal. It’s currently in the public comment period.  

In the meantime, the DEP is asking the operator to submit an engineered plan to properly close the above ground pond. 

This pit and the well have received waste from Pennsylvania, Virginia and other parts of West Virginia.

The DEP says there are 54 non-commercial and 17 commercial disposal wells in the state as of late last year.

Danny Webb Construction did not immediately return our request for comment.

Jessica Lilly can be reached at 304.384.5981, or by email jlilly@wvpublic.org. You can also follow her on twitter: @WVJessicaYLilly.

For updates from West Virginia Public Broadcasting's statewide news team, follow @wvpubnews.