Pocahontas County Commissioners Tour Marcellus Well Pads in Wetzel County

by Duane Nichols on September 26, 2011

Pocahontas County Commissioners traveled to Wetzel County on September 22nd to see firsthand the impacts of Marcellus Shale gas drilling. Commissioners David Fleming, Jamie Walker and Martin Saffer spent more than five hours speaking with landowners, visiting well sites, compressor stations and driving on the county’s back roads. The tour of the Chesapeake Energy gas fields of Wetzel County was lead by Wetzel County Action Group members Rose Baker and Bill Hughes.

Commissioners visited a half dozen of the more than 20 active well pads in eastern Wetzel County and southern Marshall County. Dewey Teal told commissioners he came home one day to find five acres of his land cleared and excavated, without any prior word from Chesapeake or its subcontractors. Those five acres, said Teal, included his family’s garden and access to his woodlot. Drilling of the two wells was completed about a year and a half ago taking six months of round-the-clock work. During that period, the lights and sound of diesel engines and pumps resulted in a lot of sleepless nights for him and his family. They polluted my water and everything else,” Teal said.

Commissioners said they were also surprised to see how much excavation each well pad required. Nearly all of the sites are on ridges. The sites are leveled, and the land is terraced where the ridge slopes away from the well pad. Commissioners saw several instances where the earth on these reworked ridges had slipped and failed, sending tons of earth downhill. Commissioner Martin Saffer said,  “There’s just no other way to paint it. It’s a big-scale, industrial enterprise, which looks to me to be growing in scale and intensity and seriousness.”

Commissioner Jamie Walker said, “The main concern I see with it was the devastation of the stability of the ground once they leveled it off,” Walker said. “I think that’s something that should be worked on.” Commission President David Fleming said he was struck by the noise and scale of what he saw in Wetzel County. “The compressor stations were significantly larger than I thought they would be, and they’re constantly noisy,” he said. “The truck traffic, while down today, was still pretty substantial, noisy and tricky to get by on these narrow roads. The visual presence of the drilling pads was more than I thought it would be. There are visible structures on each pad. In addition to the wellhead, there’s separator machinery, there’s a diesel engine running on every one, so there’s constant noise there.”

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