Water testing by Duke University reveals that contaminants associated with oil and gas wastewater have migrated into Wolf Creek, a tributary of the New River, above a drinking water intake.
During evidentiary hearings before the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board in Charleston, Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality in the Nicholas School of Environment at Duke, presented a summary of his water testing and research findings.
According to court documents, Vengosh said he and graduate student Jennie Harkess collected two water samples from Wolf Creek, 200 feet directly downstream from an injection well site at Danny E. Webb Construction Inc. in Lochgelly on Sept. 14, 2013.
He concluded the samples contained elevated levels of chemicals associated with fracking wastewater — chloride, bromide, sodium, manganese, strontium and barium.
Vengosh noted this chemical composition is typical of oil and gas wastewater observed in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
He said samples were filtered, acidified, and transported according to standardized U.S. Geological Survey field sampling techniques. Analysis of samples was conducted by several methods at Duke, including ThemoFischer Dionex ion chromatography, PlasmaQuad-3 inductively coupled-mass spectrometry and current plasma optical emission spectrometry.
He noted that the elevated water quality in stream samples near Webb Construction are not consistent with contamination from acid mine drainage sources, but matches the migration of oil and gas wastewater discharged into the environment.
He testified “the chemical profile of the water samples downstream of Danny Webb UIC (Underground Injection Control) leads me to the conclusion that the stream is impacted by contamination of oil and gas wastewater, and that any assertion that contamination is due to acid mine drainage is contrary to the actual scientific evidence.”
West Virginia American Water spokeswoman Laura Jordan confirmed the water source for its New River Regional Water Treatment Plant is located several miles downstream from where Wolf Creek meets the New. The regional plant treats 4 million gallons of water per day and serves more than 11,300 customers in Fayette County.
The West Virginia Depart of Environmental Protection revoked Danny Webb Construction’s permit on March 4 for “procedural deficiencies.” On the same day the DEP issued an order allowing the injection to continue until he was reissued or denied a permit. An appeal of that order is currently under review by the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board.
Meanwhile, the DEP has set a public hearing on Webb Construction’s permit applications on Jan. 7 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Oak Hill High School auditorium, 350 West Oyler Ave.
Permit applications, draft permits and fact sheets for each well may be downloaded online at www.dep.wv.gov/oil-and-gas/databaseinfo/Pages/UIC-Pending-Applications-.aspx.
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