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Preston County Well May Be Turned Into Deep Well Injection Site

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An old Energy Corporation of America gas well in Masontown may become a deep well injection site for toxic materials, which concerns some Preston County Residents.

"Disposal of waste like this is not in the best interest of the residents of Preston County," said Preston County resident Jim Sconyers. 

Wednesday morning several residents presented more than 800 signatures on a petition telling the county commission that it doesn't want a deep well injection site 500 feet from Deckers Creek.

"I don't think their unreasonable requests to show an awareness to what could possibly happen to a water source that is located so close to something that could be hazardous or could not be," said Preston County Commissioner Vikki Cole.

Residents are concerned about possible leaks, spills and the risks that are involved with trucking mass quantities of chemicals across the county pointing to what's happening in Kanawha County. 

"We just had the disaster in Charleston, and if that's not a wakeup call of what can happen," said Sconyers. "One good spill, one good leak can cause havoc, everyone lives down stream from somewhere."

Residents are also worried about the millions of dollars already dumped into the creek to repair it from acid mine drainage.

County Commission President Craig Jennings said he wouldn't support a blanket "no" on the subject, but would be interested researching the risks, and possibly creating some sort of policy to help protect the county's water resources.

The Commission said the concern warrants further research. 

"I think in this day and age with technology and all, you can be more prepared before the industry really, really booms to deter from any type of hazards," said Cole. 

Energy Corporation of America has not applied for a permit for the project, but in a statement, a spokesperson said the company is still exploring its options in regard to the site, adding that any plans to create an injection well would likely include 110 percent containment.

The statement reads as follows:

"At this point, we are simply conducting exploration activities to determine if the project is worth pursuing. Initial results showed that the existing well is a very strong candidate for conversion to an injection well, so we are exploring this opportunity further. Once we complete the exploratory phase of the project, we will determine at that time, how to move forward. As we have not yet finished the exploratory phase of the project, any specific questions about the project are premature, but we are confident that any concerns would be very manageable.

 While we are still in the exploratory phase of the project, I can tell you that we would have multiple levels of containment in place to avoid any spills or other discharge to the environment. We are still developing specific plans, but we envision 110 percent containment on site – which means there would be more containment in place than storage capacity. 

We do not yet know what the project may look like, but what I can tell you is that ECA has a great environmental record and, like all of our projects, we are committed to pursuing this potential project with the same high standards and commitment to safety we have when we pursue all of our projects. Therefore, multiple safeguards and containment systems would be in place to avoid any potential releases to the environment. We also would have safeguards in place to automatically shut down the well should any weakness be detected in the wellbore. During the exploratory phase, we have been assessing 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.

In addition, we would conduct extensive water testing to establish a water quality baseline. We also would be conducting regular and extensive monitoring throughout the life of the project to ensure there is no impact to the watershed. Should the monitoring show an adverse effect relating to the well – we would be notified immediately and respond accordingly to ameliorate the situation."

-- Jennifer C. Viewe, Energy Corporation of America Community Relations