Will West Virginia Fracking Spill Impact Ohio River? - WCMH: News, Weather, and Sports for Columbus, Ohio

Will West Virginia Fracking Spill Impact Ohio River?

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A large amount of water used in fracking a natural gas and oil well spilled in rural West Virginia.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection had inspectors on the scene southeast of Wheeling in Marshall County, near the small town of Dallas over the weekend.

Nearly 100,000 gallons leaked from a pit used to store fracking waste outside Wheeling, and the bulk of it flowed downhill into a nearby creek.

"Right now, there is not an alarming level of concern. Certainly, it is not materials we want flowing freely in the environment," said Kathy Cosco, of the West Virginia Department of West Virginia.

The department said that 95,000 gallons of drill water mixed with fresh water poured out of an open valve down a hill, then into a tributary of Big Wheeling Creek.

"Fortunately, we have found no evidence of any fish kill or any aquatic life being affected by this spill, so that is good news," Cosco said.

The department has taken water and soil samples and testing is underway.

The drilling company Noble Energy said, "We do not believe that any creeks, streams or surrounding landowners have been significantly impacted."

A local university professor said the Big Wheeling Creek feeds into the Ohio River, which is a source of drinking water for millions of people.

When asked if there will be an impact to water intake, Wheeling Jesuit University Professor Ben Stout said, "I don't think so, but I am glad the Wheeling water intake is upstream from Wheeling Creek."

Stout said that if there was hydrochloric acid in the spill, it could have a long-term impact on the stream.

"There are events that occur and they are going to occur more frequently with more industrial activity," Stout said.

Noble Energy released the following statement to NBC4:

"At approximately 8:20 p.m. on Friday, February 22, 2013, Noble Energy became aware that its SHL-3 centralized pit was overflowing at its water storage site.  Noble Energy employees responded immediately and found a valve was open, feeding the pit with freshwater.  Employees resolved the issue by closing the valve and stopping the flow.   A root cause analysis is being conducted to determine why the valve was open and Noble Energy will adopt protocols to prevent such occurrence in the future.

"No activity was occurring at this location at the time of the incident.  The SHL-3 is located in Marshall County, West Virginia, on property owned by CONSOL Energy.

"Noble Energy utilizes centralized pits as part of its water recycling program.  Centralized pits are permitted and regulated through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.  The SHL-3 centralized pit contained a mixture of freshwater and produced water (that returns to the surface during completion) which is reused.    

"As part of the ongoing investigation, Noble Energy is evaluating the extent of the overflow and any potential impacts.  Water and soil samples are also being collected and testing is underway.  At this time, Noble Energy believes that secondary containment areas called sediment traps minimized any environmental impact of the overflow.  Sediment traps are designed for this purpose and appear to have functioned properly.

"Although we continue to assess water and soil quality, we do not believe that any creeks, streams or surrounding landowners have been significantly impacted.  We will continue our assessment in cooperation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.  

"Noble Energy immediately notified the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection upon learning of this incident.  On Feb 25, 2013, Noble Energy reported the quantity of the overflow at 2,264 bbls to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.  The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was on location and has conducted their own assessments."

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