Fracking Blamed for Tainted Water in West Virginia

A West Virginia man claims methane in his well water is the result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations going on nearby. According to a report in the Intelligencer, Jeremiah Magers, who lives along Fish Creek in Marshall County, says he began having problems with his well water after Chesapeake Energy started drilling for natural gas about 1200 feet from the well.

“As soon as they ‘fracked’ those gas wells, that’s when my water well started getting gas in it,” Magers told the Intelligencer. Magers also said methane can sometimes be seen bubbling up in Fish Creek. According to the Intelligencer, Magers made a video of the bubbling, while also holding a flame against portions of the creek bank to check for flaring.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas has investigated the problems, but has not yet been able to pinpoint the source of the methane. However, Magers said the state told him the contamination could be coming from coal mining that had taken place in the area.

An environmental consultant hired by Magers’ attorney says that’s unlikely. According to the consultant’s report, “It is likely that he cause of the gas venting at this home originates either with the new oil and gas drilling around the home, or from gas escaping from the Columbia Gas storage field.”

According to the Intelligencer, Chesapeake did investigate Magers’ complaints last year, and supplied him with free water from June to August last year. But that has ceased, and Magers has now been forced to buy water. Chesapeake says it has determined the methane is not coming from its gas wells.

Magers is not the only West Virginian complaining of water problems near fracking operations. According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, people living in nearby Wetzel County have complained that fracking has contaminated water there. Some residents have suffered rashes and other health problems, and in other cases livestock has become sick. According to a letter the Council sent to the EPA, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection refused to test the water of at least one family when requested.

West Virginia’s fracking woes aren’t limited to water contamination. In August, we reported that the state is trying to determine if a series of mild earthquakes that occurred in Braxton County could be tied to fracking. This past April, Braxton County experienced a 3.4 magnitude earthquake. Since, then the area has been the site of at least six more. Most were around a 2.7 magnitude – not enough to cause damage but enough for people to feel them.

According to West Virginia Public Broadcasting report, a town in Braxton County called Frametown is home to holding tanks that store water used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has permitted Chesapeake Energy to use a nearby well to dispose of the drilling fluid. About ten million gallons of drilling fluid have been injected into the well since spring of 2009. Both the state and Chesapeake are trying to determine if the drilling fluid injections are related to the recent earthquakes.

In June, seven people were injured in a methane explosion at a well near Moundsville. The well was operated by Chief Oil and Natural Gas, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The firm had hired a Texas contractor, Union Drilling, to drill the well, The explosion occurred when a Union crew struck a pocket of methane gas while sinking the natural gas well through an abandoned coal mine. A 50-foot-high flare created by the blast burned for several days.

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