Work Underway to Close Fayette Fracking Waste Pit

May 19, 2014

Credit Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says materials from a pit holding waste of the oil and gas industry, including fracking waste, is being taken to the Raleigh County landfill. The DEP says work is underway to reclaim above ground waste pits months after the state agency ordered it shut down.

The pits were used to remove sediments from the oil and gas waste before injecting underground.

The DEP ordered the pit closed after the operator failed to submit a plan to bring it up to code. Although the DEP did not find the pit to be leaking, officials say it needed to be upgraded.

James Martin, chief of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas says work to reclaim or close the above ground waste pits began earlier this month, three months after the order.

Martin says sediment control has been installed while the work is being conducted.  Workers are removing pit liners, fluid and sludge material.

So where will the waste end up?

  • Fluid (mostly from precipitation):  Pumped into tanks at the location. Martins says the fluid will eventually be injected into one of the underground of UIC wells, which of course don’t currently have an approved permit in place.
  • Sludge: Martin say it’s still being removed and will eventually end up at the Raleigh County landfill.

Martin says after the waste is removed, the pits will be back filled with dirt/soil.

As the efforts to reclaim the pits continue, residents are concerned about the potential for leaks. One resident even sent a picture of what they say is from the site. The picture shows what appears to be some sort of liquid shooting from the ground.

We sent the picture to the DEP to see what liquid was being released, but we’re still waiting on that reply.

Groups Appeal

In February, the same DEP order that issued the aboveground waste pit closed, renewed the UIC or undergroun injection well permit.

That didn’t bode well with the Natural Resource Defense Council, the West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization, the Plateau Action Network or resident Brad Keenan. Tom Rist is representing the groups to appeal the order.

Rist filed the first letter of appeal on March 3. The DEP revoked the UIC permit March 4.  

The underground permit first expired in October 2012. During the renewal process, the operator still collected waste.

"How are they still injecting into it and putting waste into it during that time period and we challenge that and take issue with it because we do think it violates state law," Rist said.

The March revocation required "resubmittal for permit coverage which may result in a new draft permit followed by a public notice and comment period."

Based on email responses from the DEP is appears that the state agency has revised the UIC application but Danny Webb Construction still needed to submit a new application to comply as of last week. The DEP says once they receive that revised application, a draft permit will go out for public notice.

I’m still waiting to see a copy of the new application.

There is no time limit on how long the company has to resubmit the application. In the meantime, residents like Brad Keenan fear that efforts to save Wolf Creek from contamination could be too late.

Rist says a pre-hearing conference to discuss the process of permitting this UIC is scheduled for May 29.

A hearing before the Quality Control Board is set for June 12 at the Charleston DEP office.

Danny Webb Construction did not return our request for comment.