Action was taken in one of at least three West Virginia lawsuits against Chesapeake Energy relating to waste pits and their toxic contents. A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Chesapeake Energy to stop the company from removing contaminated soil from the area of a buried waste pit on a Wetzel Co. couple’s property. A lawsuit has been filed by Larry and Jana Rine alleging that Chesapeake created a large lined waste pond, then dug an adjacent pond and deliberately breached the pond to allow the liquids to drain into the unlined impoundment. ”After disposal of the liquids into the unlined hole, a thicker material remained in the pond with the ripped liner,” the suit says. “Chesapeake placed the lining material over the top of the remnant waste, then covered the entire pond and its remaining contents with soil.”
The attorney for the Rines says that the attempt to remove the contaminated soil to mix with materials to use in the repair of a slip is simply an excuse to haul away the waste and cover up what was dumped in the pit. ”These cases are common sense and common law,” said Brian Glasser, a Charleston lawyer who represents the Rines and and has filed two other similar cases against Chesapeake. ”You can’t bury a bunch of waste in someone’s yard. It’s that simple.” The grounds for the suit is that dumping and burying waste is not “reasonably necessary” – the legal test for activities allowed by state natural gas laws.
Burying of waste pits is a common industry practice. Chesapeake denies any wrongdoing. A company spokesperson said, “Chesapeake does believe that its activities are prudent and entirely within its lease and property rights.”
Public health and environmental groups campaigned during the past legislative session for the use of closed loop systems to eliminate the holding pit system. Groundwater contamination has occurred in the vicinity of drilling waste pits pits. There is also concern regarding air pollution from volatile organic compounds in the waste fluids. As a compromise position, groups demanded that law be enacted to require the use of a reinforced liner system and proper disposal of pit liners. No protective legislation was passed during the 2011 legislative session.