DEP Postpones Public Hearing Concerning Lochgelly Waste Site, Again
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is rescheduling a public hearing on two permit renewal applications for the second time. The public hearing is around applications for an underground injection control (UIC) facility near Lochgelly in Fayette County.
In an email, the DEP said the meeting scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 19 in Oak Hill has been postponed a due to inclement weather conditions.
The initial hearing was set for Jan. 7 but was also postponed due to weather. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection opted to postpone both events rather than risk the safety of citizens and agency personnel who would be driving on icy roads.
The DEP is working to confirm the details about a new date and location.
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.
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.