Facts and Fracks: Abandoned Wells in West Virginia - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Facts and Fracks: Abandoned Wells in West Virginia

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JOHNSTOWN -

Thirteen thousand wells in West Virginia haven't produced oil or gas for more than a year.

State law requires wells to be plugged after 12 months of inactivity, unless the operator can show a future use for the well.

Bill Suan said it took more than ten years for a well on his property in Harrison County to be plugged.

"1993 is when it completely quit producing," said Bill Suan, a landowner in Harrison County.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas is in charge of enforcing the statue.

"Numerous phone calls to the DEP to get them to do their job. They were lax in their enforcement on this. Finally, the well got plugged in the end of July. With a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls," Suan said.

According to a report published by the Legislative Auditor in September, "The DEP is not forcing operators to comply with statutory requirements regarding abandoned oil and gas wells." To view the full report click the link on the right.

The DEP issued a response to that report citing the DEP's staffing and funding issues. It said there are a "few items we can implement that may help with the tracking and enforcement of these wells." The full response can be viewed by clicking the link on the right.

Suan said the well on his property should have been taken care of regardless of the statute.

"I'm standing about where the well was. You can see the barn in the background. And in this picture, here is the barn and the oily water," Suan said.

Suan said oil sometimes leaked into a nearby stream.

"You could see the rainbows and the oil floating on top of the water," Suan said.

Suan said the DEP and the well operators need to be held accountable for these wells.

"There needs to be some program and some funding to get started on plugging these wells before these companies disappear," Suan said.

Suan currently has another well on his property that hasn't produced gas since 1985.  

Part two of this story will be available next week.