DEP hosts public hearing on Saint George Injection Well permit renewal

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PARSONS, W.Va. – West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection hosted a public hearing Thursday at the Tucker County Board of Education Auxiliary Gym regarding the Saint George underground injection well site after nearly fifteen hundred citizens signed a petition against allowing it. 

St. George underground injection well site.

Residents were given an opportunity to review the underground injection control permit and ask questions to the DEP officials that were on hand. Pillar Energy, LLC operates a class two underground injection control facility that is currently seeking a permit renewal to inject class two fluids associated with oil and natural gas production. The fracking waste injection well is located along Horseshoe Run just before it enters the Cheat River.  

“The injection well could fail and the bad water come back up. An old water well is right next to it. So, there are multiple ways that the environment can be affected,” said Judy Rodd, a member of Friends of Blackwater 

Friends of Blackwater stated their concerns were fracking fluid leaking into ground water, heavy traffic on narrow roads, exposure of chemicals and lining of the well that may allow contaminates to leak out.

Bridge damaged due to heavy truck traffic.

“It’s been there probably since 2003 as an injection site,” said Jeremy Hile, a farmer whose property is adjacent to the Saint George injection site.  “There are times there has been a lot of traffic to it. Then you know they’ve used it for injecting a lot, and then, there are times that it’s set and they’ve not done much with it at all. The permit currently has expired and they have not done anything with it for a little while besides haul fluid from the tanks they were storing there. But just have concerns living beside of it that spills, and I’ve asked a question whether at 24,000 and 780 gallons as a potential permit amount that they, I thought, was the amount would be capped but they say there is really no cap on it that they could put down as much as they want to in a days’ time.”

Residents did state that fracking fluid is working its way back up to the surface water and having an effect on the surrounding are around the site.  

DEP officials said the original permit was developed to ensure and protect human health and the environment.  

Saint George underground injection well meeting.

“What we regulate on the well is the pressure that injectate is added to it not a volume,” said Dennis Stottlemyer, Deputy Environmental Advocate for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. “The trucks have been going to the well for several years now, we don’t know that there will be an uptick in trucks and our permit boundry is the edge of the site, and the road is monitored by the public service commission and the department of highways. If there is a spill on site, the operator is required to notify us immediately and begin operations to clean-up that spill. The injectates are primarily salt water, very high in chlorides. Of course, you don’t want to come into contact with them, but I would say if you just flushed with water, you would be in good shape. Some of these fluids are monitored for radio activity, radio nuclei and in some cases, there are some very low concentrations of it.” 

Photograph of the Cheat River near Horseshoe Run in St. George.

The permit conditions states that a class two well will be constructed, monitored, operated and tested to help ensure protection of underground sources of drinking water.  

Residents had 30 days to review and comment on the class two underground injection control draft permits. Original comment period on the underground injection control permit started December 16, 2019 and ended January 15, 2020. 

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