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W.Va. DEP holds final hearing on drilling waste

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A handful of passionate opponents spoke out Wednesday against proposed rule revisions for the disposal of waste material from drilling sites.

The comments came during a public hearing at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in Charleston.

Members of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, as well as a representative of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, urged officials to reconsider the rules, which opponents say do not protect waterways and the public from toxic and radioactive materials which leach into drinking water.

According to the WVDEP, the proposed rule revision “establishes protocols for the proper handling, management and disposal of drill cuttings and associated drilling mud generated in the exploration and production of oil and gas from the horizontal drilling process. It also requires radiation and leachate monitoring at all facilities receiving drill cuttings and associated drilling mud.”

Bill Hughes, a resident of New Martinsville and chairman of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, said the authority hired two companies to draft reports on possible air and water issues stemming from the placement of drill waste in state landfills. Both reports, he said, ultimately stated there was a likely risk to health and too many unknown factors, such as the level of chemical and radiation exposure.

“We’re doing things that are really unexamined, unexplored,” Hughes said. “This is uncharted territory. We are literally guessing in the dark and we’re hoping it’s not glowing in the dark.”

Hughes said the DEP is too slow to regulate these kinds of issues, often waiting until years after companies have established a broad environmental “footprint” in an area before beginning to address concerns.

Hughes said since 2011 the state has allowed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of tons of toxic and radioactive materials to be dumped in state landfills with little oversight or thought of long-term consequences.

“It’s the long view that motivates me,” Hughes said. “What is the state going to be like for our children and grandchildren?”

Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, echoed those concerns.

“These practices are in essence an experiment and the rivers and people of West Virginia are the subjects of this experiment,” she said. “We cannot cut corners when it comes to protecting our waters and our health.

“This problem will not go away,” Rosser said. “I’m very concerned about our state’s handling of this issue….

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