Drill Cuttings Being Tested for Radiation

Wheeling Intelligencer
3 April 2014
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer

MOUNDSVILLE - Some Northern Panhandle residents remain concerned about radiation associated with natural gas activity in the region.

However, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection official said his tests show drill cuttings emit minimal radioactivity.

"Some of you may be hearing from me to look at your drill cuttings," H. Michael Dorsey, chief of Homeland Security and Emergency Response for the West Virginia DEP, told industry representatives at the Marshall County Energy Exploration Task Force meeting this week.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania DEP said radiation alarms at landfills accepting Marcellus shale drilling waste went off 1,325 times to indicate the presence of radium and other materials. However, Dorsey said he found no such radioactivity during a recent test of EQT Corp. drilling waste taken to a Wetzel County landfill.

"It was a very low reading," he said. "The Legislature told us to do more studies, which we will. But I am not concerned about it now."

In another matter at the meeting, Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said there was recently an oversized load moving in part of the county that was not on schedule. This was a different load from the Williams Energy superloads that traveled through the county in February and March.

"A couple of our fire departments were dispatched for a fire and got stuck behind an oversized load," he said.

While not identifying the specific companies involved, Hart said some subcontractors moving the oversized load were not cooperative.

"They (emergency personnel) don't have time to argue with escort companies," he said.

As for the superloads, the 41-yard long machines each traveled from the Benwood CSX rail yard to the Williams Oak Grove facility. On the first day of the initial move, a Marshall County school bus got stuck behind the superload along W.Va. 88 when it was not scheduled to be there, causing some students to be nearly two hours late getting home.

"When you say, 'we are stopping,' and don't - that upset a lot of people," county resident John Toth said.

Hart said the second move was much smoother than the first. Williams spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said another superload will probably follow the same path in June. Although not as heavy as the de-ethanizer, the device will be 40 yards long.

"Hopefully, the third one will go well," Hart said.

The task force - founded in 2010 at the beginning of the county's Marcellus Shale boom - now meets on a bi-monthly basis. It allows industry representatives to converse with public officials regarding problems the county may be experiencing because of the shale rush.

The next task force meeting is set for 12:30 p.m. June 3 at the Grand Vue Park banquet hall. It is open to the public.