The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has been caught red-handed letting the oil and gas industry turn one of the most beautiful and adventuresome tourist spots on the East Coast into a radioactive and toxic chemical dump site. As shocking as that may seem, you don’t have to take my word for it, because the Danny Webb Construction “DWC” Class II Underground Injection Control “UIC” Draft Permits for two Lochgelly, WV, well sites in Fayetteville, WV, documented that the radioactivity typical for Marcellus waste has actually been permitted to be injected through an abandoned coal mine. And although that radioactivity is too hot to legally handle in any West Virginia dump site, the DEP is turning a blind eye to it basically because the EPA does not require the DEP to regulate it. The really chilling part is that the WV Bureau of Public Health appears to be willingly blind towards the whole matter, even though State Code requires it to step up.
HOW HOT IS IT?
By clicking on this link, you can read a close up of a lab report showing that the amount of Radium measured in that particular sample, which was taken directly from the well in Lochgelly, WV (Fayette County) on 4/9/2014. After adding the total Radium 226 to Radium 228 (which is the proper way to calculate when testing for Maximum Contaminate Limits of Radium) the not-so-grand total is 3,327.5 picoCuries per Liter.
The reason it’s not so grand is because under current WV law, it’s too hot to be dumped ANY where within the State. Yet the DEP is permitting it in as many as 759 Class II injection wells all across the state.
The above referenced lab report is found on page 169 of the DWC Draft Permit 2D0190460, which may be downloaded as a pdf file from the following link: http://www.mountainpartywv.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2D0190460-Complete-Application_11-18-2014.pdf m
Although there are federal exemptions for oil and gas waste of this nature, West Virginia law currently does not allow Radium to be injected into any wells above 60 picoCuries per liter. So how could Danny Webb Construction’s well(s) get so contaminated, if DEP agents were properly regulating it?
The answer is that they were not. And in fact, as a matter of policy the DEP never has properly regulated it, choosing instead to ignore it. But how could they? Because that high dosage in the Lochgelly injectate isn’t a fluke. In fact there was a definitive USGS study published back in 2011 that reported the median amount of radioactivity in Marcellus flowback at 2,460 picoCuries per liter. And that was straight out of the wells, before it was re-cycled (as is the current “water saving” plan recommended by the DEP), where it picks up radionuclides every time that fluid is re-used.
But note that the controversial on-site pits that the DEP authorized were for the purpose of settling out heavy metals. So the radium, being a heavy metal, was naturally supposed to form a sludge, along with the other suspended solids on the bottom of the pits. Theoretically, the thinner liquid injected into the wells wouldn’t be so radioactive, and that probably worked to some extent. But over time the sludge at Lochgelly built up to be at least fifteen feet deep, which, according to scientists, would have been extremely radioactive.
Perhaps most shocking of all, the DEP authorized DWC’s contractor to haul that sludge to Raleigh County’s landfill and dump it there as if it was common yard waste. The DEP didn’t measure for it because, according to the DEP, “EPA does not require the State to measure for it” – thanks to the Halliburton Loophole.
ADDITIONAL PROOF OF INJECTATE RADIOACTIVITY BEING PERMITTED IN WV UIC WELLS
One well in Ritchie County, WV, was recently permitted by the DEP to become a “commercial” well (API 47-085-09669). Originally drilled as a vertical well by Jay Bee Oil & Gas, it was sold to Hall Drilling late in 2009 for $50,000, and converted to an injection well in 2010.
Although that Ritchie County Class II UIC well also had sludge pits similar to those at Lochgelly, again, to help settle out the heavy metals, that particular well had Radium 226 & Radium 228 together documented at a whoppin’ 3,338 picoCuries per liter, or over 55 times the safe limit for radium in industrial waste, as set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission!
What that means is that again, if it were not for the infamous the Feds would absolutely not allow it, except that it’s exempt from Federal scrutiny due to.
And yet our Department of Everyone Poisoned actually permitted that Ritchie County well to “go commercial” despite the fact that it already had reached a level of radioactivity over 600 times the EPA’s drinking water Maximum Contaminate Limit of 5 pCi/l.
HOW CAN WE TELL IF DWC’s WELLS LEAKED INTO WOLF CREEK?
While the samples that Dr. Avner Vengosh took from the sediment of the Wolf Creek contained radium 226 & radium 228 below the action level that would automatically trigger remediation, the fact that they revealed not one radionuclide, but both, indicates that they had most likely been freely flowing down Wolf Creek.. And had the Environmental Quality Board not blocked attempts by independent researchers to do more testing actually on the site, there could already have been workers cleaning up that mess.
Incredibly, Danny Webb Construction has been allowed by the DEP to continue injecting toxic Marcellus soup without a permit, despite the fact that no one has figured out were the contaminants that Dr. Vengosh discovered came from.