Creek Group Opposes Well Plan

Sees a threat to Deckers stream; meeting Aug. 22

Morgantown Dominion Post
7 August 2013
By David Beard

Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) is opposing a proposed underground injection well in Preston County — citing the potential for watershed contamination.
FODC plans various activities to oppose the plan, including a public discussion Aug. 22, at WVU.

The proposed well is an out-of-service conventional gas well that Energy Corporation of America (ECA) is considering repurposing as an injection well (called UICs, for underground injection control), said Kyle Mork, ECA chief operating officer.

The proposed well is outside Masontown, FODC Executive Director Liz Wiles said, about 500 feet from the creek, near the intersection of the Deckers Creek Trail and Sand Bank Road.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that UICs receive various types of waste fluids injected under high pressure — in this case, it would be frack water no longer suitable for natural gas production.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said ECA hasn’t yet applied for a UIC permit. Wiles said ECA graciously approached the group in advance to notify it of the proposal. “We ’re happy they came to us ahead of time to let us know.”

In a July 30 letter to ECA, FODC cites several reasons for opposing the plan, including:

The well threatens the area’s groundwater through possible spills, leaks and well casing failures.

The site is 10 miles from an active seismic epicenter that could produce new fault lines.

It’s located atop a convex geological fold, and wastewater could migrate down toward Masontown city water, the Masontown mine pool and Deckers Creek.

Truck traffic to the site could possibly use the road to the rail-trail parking area and cross the rail-trail — potentially disrupting and despoiling recreational uses.

The letter says the group appreciates ECA’s openness in sharing its plans. “However, FODC has worked hard to restore, preserve and promote the watershed, and we must oppose any action that threatens Deckers Creek, the Deckers Creek Rail Trail and the community. ”

Wiles told The Dominion Po s t this letter doesn’t constitute a blanket opposition to injection wells — just to this one.

The public discussion at WVU — part of the regular FODC outreach meeting, 6:30-9 p.m. Aug. 22, at the Agricultural Science Building, Room 101 — will include an overview of FODC’s protest plans. Wiles said those are still in the works.

ECA response

Mork said ECA received FODC’s letter last week.

He said in an email exchange, “We worked to establish lines of communications with the FODC. We offered, should we complete the investigative process and move forward with the project, to include them in our planning, our water sampling results, and our reporting process.

“Because of these efforts to be upfront and transparent, we are particularly discouraged to receive this letter before the FODC received concrete information about the proposed well and disappointed that they chose to interrupt the channels of communication we were working diligently to build with them.

“We understand if the FODC has questions about the proposed project,” Mork continued, “however we would have appreciated it if they had raised these questions and considered our responses prior to taking a negative public position on the potential well. Nevertheless, as we do with all of our communities and stakeholders, we will make efforts to keep the FODC informed about the project, should it progress.”

Mork explained that they are conducting exploration activities to determine if this project is worth pursuing.

“Once we complete the exploratory phase of the project, which should be sometime this fall, we will determine if we will submit a permit application to the DEP for this project.”

The timing of the permitting process is up to the DEP, he said. Following that, “We anticipate construction activities to take three to six months.”

Mork said ECA met in May with several Preston County community leaders, Wiles and other representatives to let them know they’d be exploring the project this summer. “We also indicated we will return to Preston County in fall with the results of our research. … As we have not yet finished the exploratory phase of the project, the FODC is premature in their objections. And we are confident that all of the concerns they raise are either unfounded or manageable.”

Mork also supplied responses to the primary objections.

“The assumption that the project would have an inevitable impact on Deckers Creek is unfounded,” he said. “ECA is committed to pursuing this project in an environmentally responsible manner — as we are with all of our projects. Therefore, multiple safeguards and containment systems would be in place to avoid any potential releases to the environment.”

Regarding the seismic epicenter, Mork said ECA has been operating this well for decades. “We have a strong understanding of its drainage volume and reservoir pressure and we have great insight into where fluid will travel once it would be injected. We have a solid understanding of the geology of the region and have conducted extensive modeling as part of our exploratory activities. Under no circumstances do we anticipate injected fluid to migrate more than one mile from the well bore.

“Threats to groundwater would be well managed,” he said. The well and potential injection zone is more than 7,000 feet deep. The Greenbrier limestone is at 1,040 feet and groundwater sources are shallower still. “Throughout our research, we have found absolutely no evidence that there are any faults migrating within thousands of feet of water sources. Therefore, there is simply no path of migration between the well and groundwater sources.”

Along with layers of containment, he said, there will be safeguards in place to automatically shut down the well should any weakness be detected in the wellbore. “We are working now to assess the integrity of the casing of the well and will only proceed with the project if the casing proves to be entirely competent and the well a viable candidate.”

Mork said ECA will do water tests to establish a water quality baseline, and will conduct regular and extensive monitoring throughout the life of the project.

The location of the potential access road to the site hasn’t been determined, so “concerns about specific truck traffic and access to recreational destinations are premature. Regardless, residents can rest assured that when operating at full capacity, we would expect fewer than 10 trucks per day to visit this facility. This translates to a very small fraction of the traffic that moves through the area every day.”
Concerning seismic activity in the area, Mork noted that the well is close to the Mont Chateau seismic monitoring station, and they will be able to respond quickly.

ECA operates the same type of injection well in Montana, near Yellowstone, with no environmental impacts, he said. “We understand, and are highly sensitive to being environmentally responsible in all of our operations — and this proposed project is no different.”