Hydraulic Fracturing Behind Big Drop at West Virginia Reservoir

Hydraulic fracturing is being blamed for missing water at a West Virginia reservoir. According to the Wheeling Intelligencer, the water level at the Moundsville Reservoir dropped more than 10 feet over a few days last month. Now it turns out that 9 million gallons of water was sold to natural gas drillers performing fracking operations in West Virginia’s Marcellus shale.

Fracking, which involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into shale deposits under high pressure to release natural gas, requires the use of millions of gallons of water – as much as 5 million gallons for one natural gas well. One of the many environmental issues surrounding this natural gas drilling technique is the possible depletion of water resources that are tapped by drillers.

According to the Intelligencer, when officials at the Moundsville Reservoir first detected the water drop-off last month, they suspected a major leak. But it turns out that two of the county’s public service districts, PSD 3 and PSD 4, had sold the 9 million gallons of water to the drilling companies. This is apparently legal, as once a PSD purchases water from the city, the district is free to sell it to whomever it chooses. But unfortunately, the districts forgot to mention the sale to Moundsville officials. It’s not known which drilling companies purchased the water, or what they paid for it.

“We were not prepared to handle that much (water) usage,” Moundsville City Manager Allen Hendershot told the Intelligencer.

Hendershot added that the reservoir has now fallen behind in production, and the city will have to take steps to get it back to normal. To do this, the Moundsville Water Department opened additional wells and streamlined the process at the plant. Among other things, the plant has reduced the amount of water softening undertaken at the plant, so for the time being, Moundsville residents will have to put up with harder water than usual.

The districts have also been told that they need to “address a sale of this magnitude in advance the next time,” Hendershot said.

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