By S. Tom Bond assisted by Julie Archer of WVSORO
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a large, well established environmental group with offices in five major U. S. cities. On Wednesday the 29th of January and Thursday the 30th, they sent a group to tour Marcellus trouble areas in West Virginia. The group included three lawyers, an established photographer with a press video camera and the writer Amy Mall.
The trip began at Morgantown with Evan Hansen of Downstream Strategies, an environmental consulting firm. First they visited Casey and Stacie Griffith’s house in Marion County, because the operations are so close to the residence.
Mr. Hansen then took the group to a site in Northwest Harrison county where 2100 gallons of a drilling fluid had been pumped into a wetland and then flowed downstream. Several families have been impacted by loosing their well water.
The next stop was the Sherwood Station processing facility on Route 50 near West Union, followed by a visit to the Powell compressor site on County Route 11. The compressor station lies very low in the flood plain of a local stream and was invaded by high water later in the evening.
Wednesday ended with a community meeting and dinner in West Union, attended by about 20 local residents and some visitors from surrounding counties, who were given a chance to describe their problems with shale gas development companies. One person said she had a paved road, but it was broken up shortly after drilling began, “and we lived in a dust cloud for three years with hundreds of trucks going by some days.”
Another complained that when he identified an old, unplugged gas well in his yard, the company representative said, “That’s not a concern.” The man knew full well it would increase the chance of losing his water well. Another complained about being surrounded by gas wells, all around her house. A number of other incidents around the county were discussed.
West Virgina Host Farms volunteers provided lodging and breakfast for the NRDC group. After breakfast on Thursday they went to see the Joye Huff property, where a drilling company has planned a drilling pad in the flood plain, causing great confusion in the county government and county court. Next they visited a site where condensate tanks are venting very close to a residence, and interviewed the home owners. They also visited the Pike Fork, Central Station and Straight Fork Road sites in Doddridge before going on to Ritchie County.
In Ritchie they met David McMahon of the WV Surface Owners’ Rights Organization (WVSORO). He showed them a family’s pond that is filling up with mud and other runoff from a nearby well site. Afterward they headed north to Wetzel County. Bill Hughes of the Wetzel County Action Group led them on a tour of drilling sites in the Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area. Before heading back to Washington, DC, they visited with a family near Jacksonburg whose water well is contaminated.