Upper Monongahela River Association, Inc.

P.O. Box 519
Granville, WV 26534-0519

Sunday 21 December 2008

Governor Joe Manchin III
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston WV 25305
Fax 304-342-7025

Dear Governor Manchin:

The Upper Monongahela River Association and the Mon River Recreation and Commerce Committee have written to Secretary Huffman of the WVDEP (letter attached) regarding our concerns about the threat to the water quality of the Monongahela River from the projected increase in Marcellus Shale gas well drilling. The very possibility of impaired drinking water in West Virginia, including Monongalia County and WVU, cannot be taken lightly. Until a few months ago, it was an unimaginable scenario. Recent events in Pennsylvania are a red flag that should not be ignored by West Virginia leaders. Coal fired power plants and other industries will also be adversely impacted.

As organizers of the annual Mon River Summit (the Fourth to be held April 13 in Morgantown), we feel it is our responsibility to assure that all relevant political individuals, government agencies, and potentially affected entities are made aware of this threat. Our fact-finding experience thus far suggests that the existing regulatory framework and resources are inadequate to prevent a drinking water crisis in the next few years when, not if, low water conditions reoccur in the Monongahela River. Thus we have requested Secretary Huffman meet with us to discuss the issues involved and the WVDEP strategy for dealing with Marcellus Shale gas well drilling challenges and opportunities.

We also realize that legislative and agency regulatory action, which can be a slow process, will be necessary to move this initiative forward. Obviously, the risk to public drinking water supplies, and the potential affect on other industries, should elevate the level of concern by the WVDEP and our legislature. It is with this in mind that we are respectfully bringing this issue to your attention.

In addition to our mailing address, I may be reached by email at bpallay@comcast.net, or by telephone at 304-276-3792.



Barry Pallay
Chair, Mon River Recreation & Commerce Committee, Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, and, Vice President, Upper Monongahela River Association

Encl: Letter to Secretary Huffman


Upper Monongahela River Association, Inc.

P.O. Box 519
Granville, WV 26534-0519

Friday December 19, 2008

Randy C. Huffman, Secretary
WV Department of Environmental Protection
601 - 57th Street
Charleston WV 25304
304-926-0440 (fax 0446)
Email: Kathy.Cosco@wv.gov

Dear Secretary Huffman:

The Upper Monongahela River Association (UMRA) and the Mon River Recreation and Commerce Committee (MRRCC), Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, became aware of a serious water quality problem on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania starting in October. Allegheny Power’s Hatfield Power Station at Masontown, PA and the US Steel Clairton Coke Works both experienced operating problems due to the high TDS levels in the Monongahela River. At the same time, the taste and odor of drinking water being supplied to several hundred thousand Pennsylvania customers was impaired. In response to these problems, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) asked the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to increase the flow of the Monongahela River by releasing water from Tygart and Stonewall Jackson lakes. After consultation with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and the Division of Natural Resources, flows were increased slightly for only five days because of low lake levels. Unfortunately this attempt to dilute the TDS did not solve the problem.

The UMRA and the MRRCC became concerned that the problem causing drinking water impairment and other industrial user problems in Pennsylvania could also occur in the West Virginia reach of the river. A forum was then convened on November 14 in Morgantown to determine the cause and magnitude of the problem. Fifty people representing federal, state, county, municipal, university, industrial and environmental organizations and agencies attended despite minimal publicity and little advance notice. Data were presented that indicated returned frac water from Marcellus Shale (MS) gas wells was being processed and discharged from waste water treatment plants (WWTP) in Pennsylvania.

Those plants have since been directed by the PADEP to reduce MS brine inputs from 20% to no more than 1%. The COE advised that the TDS in the West Virginia reach of the river was within the range observed during previous low flows. No data was available to identify the number of active wells, or predict the number of wells, and their locations, that may be drilled in the next 5 years.

There was unanimous agreement that a comprehensive approach to address these problems must be developed. Specifically, regulations and information to monitor and control the impacts of MS gas wells in West Virginia will be needed. Major concerns that were identified include: 1) what are allowable water withdrawal amounts and passby flows to service individual MS wells; 2) what waste water and waste solids treatment is available, permitted, and utilized; 3) where are wastes and discharges allowed, in what amounts, and how is this determined; 4) what are the chemical compositions of the wastes; 5) what erosion controls are required and how is this enforced; 6) how many inspectors and other staff are available to permit and monitor the existing and expected well applications and sites, and are they sufficient to handle the work load, and if not, what additional resources are required; 7) what are the impacts to other industrial water consumptive users if the brine water and other waste discharges are not controlled; 8) what WWTP and water filtration plants may be adversely affected if TDS levels and the number of MS wells increase; 9) is current sampling adequate to monitor and control this newly developing industry, and if not, what additional sampling and resources are needed, and 10) are adequate rules, regulations, reporting requirements, procedures and legislation in place to safeguard the public, other industries, and the environment, and if not, what would be necessary to do so.

The UMRA and the MRRCC recognize the need for natural gas as a major energy resource. We are not opposed to MS gas well drilling per se, and do not want to appear as being obstructive. However, the threat to the drinking water of West Virginia residents and the threat to other industries, including coal power generation plants, is a red flag that must be addressed immediately. The flow of the Monongahela River was actually lower in 2002 than it was in 2008. We believe that as the number of MS gas wells increase, the potential adverse impacts will occur at higher river flows. Even at higher flows the Monongahela River at Elizabeth PA is still experiencing excessive TDS levels. This past week, municipal water suppliers have advised more than 85,000 Pennsylvania residents including portions of Fayette, southern Allegheny and Washington Counties to use bottled water for drinking and cooking, if they have concerns, until river flows increase. Can you imagine the harm done to the image of West Virginia, and the adverse publicity for regulatory agencies if this situation occurred in Monongalia (or other counties), and at West Virginia University, particularly if no action is taken to address the problem after we are now aware of the threat? Fortunately flows did increase this week so the symptoms, but not the problem, have been temporarily alleviated in most of the region but will likely return in the summer or fall, if not sooner. By being proactive now, we hope to avoid the New York State experience where the public demanded and obtained a moratorium on MS well drilling.

The UMRA and the MRRCC would like you to meet with us to discuss your agency’s perspective on MS gas well development, and your strategy for avoiding a drinking water crisis in West Virginia, and particularly in Monongalia and neighboring counties in the Monongahela River basin. We intend to gather information in a constructive fashion and determine if a strategy and regulatory framework exists that protects water supplies for domestic and industrial users while enabling the natural gas industry to function reliably and responsibly.

The next meeting of the MRRCC is 9AM on January 9, 2009 at the Morgantown Airport management conference room. Would it be possible for you to meet with us at that time and discuss the aforementioned concerns? If this is not convenient, please advise us when you would be available. Obviously we have a sense of urgency regarding this problem and are cognizant of the upcoming legislative session. In that context, we are sending copies of this letter to Governor Manchin, legislative members, and potentially affected political entities in the Monongahela River basin to inform them about this threat to their constituents.

We have made additional information on these matters available at our websites at UpperMon.org and MonRiverSummit.org.

Thank you for your consideration of this very critical concern about Monongahela River drinking water and potential adverse effects on commerce, recreation and other industries. In addition to our mailing address, I may be reached by email at bpallay@comcast.net, or by telephone at 304-276-3792.


Barry Pallay
Chair, Mon River Recreation & Commerce Committee, Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, and, Vice President, Upper Monongahela River Association

Governor Joe Manchin III, 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Charleston WV 25305. 1-888-438-2731, 304-558-2000, fax 304-342-7025, email