Marcellus Drill Cuttings "Another Maybe Dangerous Water Issue"
Public News Service-WV
30 January 2014
By Dan Heyman,
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - While lawmakers deal with above-ground storage
tanks, another huge potential source of water contamination is
quietly building: drill cuttings from Marcellus wells. Officials
in the gas counties say enormous amounts of Marcellus drill
cuttings and other waste are threatening to overwhelm their
landfills and could endanger water supplies.
Bill Hughes, chairman of Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, says
their landfill is getting four times the normally allowed limit of
material. What's worse, he says, the cuttings include unknown
amounts of radioactive and heavy-metal minerals that could poison
"Landfill liners leak. They all leak. The heavy metals are a
serious concern, and there is some in the leachate," Hughes warns.
"I don't know if there's an exposure problem."
Normally the Wetzel County landfill is allowed to take 10,000 tons
of material a month. But state law says solid Marcellus waste is
to be put into landfills. The state Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP) has interpreted that to mean the Wetzel dump has
to take all of the drill waste brought to it. Hughes says that has
been up to 40,000 tons a month.
"There's an impact on the local communities - be it traffic,
noise, damaged roads. That's a massive amount of material, using
up my grandkids' landfill space," he says.
According to Hughes, the landfill had been taking in 60,000 to
70,000 tons of solid waste a year. But he says last year it took
in the normal amount, plus 250,000 tons of drill cuttings.
The DEP says there has been no proof that the material is toxic or
is leaching into surface and ground water. Hughes says the agency
is just choosing to ignore the issue. He says they don't seem
willing to deal with whether the cuttings could be dangerous to
drinking water, or the likelihood that the sheer volume of stuff
will overwhelm the landfills.
"There is no upper limit, so we don't know where it's gonna stop
at. It seems like the whole process caught the state completely
unprepared, unaware, and they were and probably still are playing
catch-up," he says.
Hughes and others are pressing the legislature to deal with the
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