UPDATE: DEP Postpones Public Hearing Concerning Lochgelly Waste Site
Update Wednesday January 7, 2015 11:46 a.m.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is postponing the meeting due to weather/road conditions. In an email, Kelley Gillenwater with the DEP said,
"Due to the inclement weather conditions in the Oak Hill area, tonight’s public hearing on the Danny Webb UIC permit applications will be reschedule. The date, time and location have not yet been determined but an announcement with those details will be made within the next couple of days."
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection wants to hear what folks have to say about an oil and gas waste site in Fayette County. The permit has basically been in the renewal process since 2012.
The DEP ordered Danny Webb Construction to close an above ground waste pit last year. Folks have worried for years that both the above ground waste pit and underground injection well have been leaking oil and gas waste into Wolf Creek, a tributary to the New River. It appears a researcher from Duke University now shares those concerns.
Danny Web Construction’s permit for an underground injection well expired in 2012. The DEP renewed the underground injection well, or UIC, permit in February last year under the condition that Danny Webb Construction close the above ground waste pit.
Representing the Natural Resources Defense Council, The West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization, Plateau Action Network and citizen Brad Keenan, Tom Rist with the Rist Law Office filed a letter of appeal. After ‘receiving significant public interest” the DEP revoked the permit soon after.
This past summer the Environmental Quality Board heard complaints against the DEP’s permitting process in this case. The groups point out that despite the permit expiring, and the revocation order, Danny Webb could still collect waste.
The board still hasn’t made a decision in that case and now, in light of the public hearing, it appears the DEP is moving forward in granting the permit. A public hearing is part of the permit issuance process.
Residents Remain Worried
The groups remain concerned about potential hazards to public safety. According to court documents, resident Brad Keenan presented results from water samples taken from Wolf Creek in 2007 that showed “high concentration of diesel and other petroleum products”.
In an appellant’s brief filed in September, the Rist Law Office sharply criticizes the DEP for not taking action against Danny Web Construction. Tom Rist points to the DEP’s records as evidence showing the site was out of compliance.
The appeal also quotes an environmental researcher and Duke University professor Avner Vengosh saying that samples taken from Wolf Creek, included “elevated levels of several dissolved constituents in water such as chloride, bromide, sodium, manganese, strontium and barium.”
These chemicals are typical of oil and gas wastewater. It’s important to also point out that this site in Fayette County is a commercial disposal well, which means all kinds of liquid industrial waste is brought in from other sites. These underground injection wells accept oil and gas waste from states throughout the region including Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Finally, groups point out that Wolf Creek is a tributary to the New River, which brings in tourism dollars to the region. The site is also located about a mile from one of the county’s only day care facilities.
Danny Webb Construction did not responded immediately to our request for comment. The public is invited to attend a public hearing to voice concerns or support of the permit, at Oak Hill School tonight at 6:30 p.m.
The DEP says there are currently 14 commercial sites across the state and 33 private disposal wells.