Bid made for shale drilling waste landfill at West Virginia site
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A Canadian company is seeking to site the region's first industrial landfill designed for Marcellus Shale gas drilling waste in what has been called an environmentally sensitive area near Bruceton Mills, W.Va., just six miles south of the Pennsylvania state line.
The landfill is proposed by CCS Midstream of Calgary, Alberta, on 250 acres near the confluence of Big Sandy and Little Sandy creeks in rural Preston County.
The landfill would accept the dewatered drilling cuttings and drill mud and dried "cake" residue left from evaporated fracking fluid, brine and flowback water from Marcellus Shale gas wells in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and other states.
The Preston County Solid Waste Authority tabled the landfill proposal earlier this month and was seeking more information about the composition and chemical properties of the waste. CCS must also get approvals from the state Public Service Commission and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, but it hasn't applied for those yet.
"Right now, we've got good water and good people living here, and we want to be sure before a landfill goes in that it's not going to be dangerous," said Fred Taylor, waste authority chairman. "We don't want to jeopardize the people living here. We need to find out more about this."
Friends of the Cheat, a West Virginia environmental organization in the Cheat River watershed, has raised concerns about the environmental impact of the landfill in an ecologically fragile area where almost $1 million has been spent to restore creeks polluted by acid mine drainage from coal mines and about $450 million has been spent on water restoration projects throughout the Cheat watershed.
"The Big Sandy is the largest subwatershed of the Cheat River, and we've worked -- along with other groups -- for 15 years to restore it with great success," said Amanda Pitzer, executive director of the Friends of the Cheat. "Those creeks have brook trout and rainbow trout, and the lower portion of Big Sandy is a great whitewater boating venue. That brings in a lot of recreation money."
Ms. Pitzer said the Marcellus Shale drilling waste would contain radioactive materials, carcinogenic chemicals from evaporated fracking flowback water and high concentrations of salts and chlorides, which were a contributing factor to the big 2009 fish kill in Dunkard Creek along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border, and high concentrations of dissolved solids in the Monongahela River several times during the last few years.
"Water from the Cheat is a major buffer for the Mon," she said. "If we lose that, you could see significant impacts downstream all the way to Pittsburgh."
Friends of the Cheat will host a community meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in Bruceton Elementary School to discuss the landfill proposal and the concerns.
CCS did not respond to a phone call seeking comment. Its website says the company, founded in 1984, operated 24 industrial landfills for drilling waste, all in Canada.
CCS did meet with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection several months ago to discuss its proposal, and Kathy Cosco, a department spokeswoman, said the high level of public interest in proposed project meant a public hearing would be held prior to any DEP decision on a permit.
Ms. Cosco said other landfills in West Virginia have already updated operations to allow them to accept drilling waste from Marcellus operations and that disposal of drilling waste in landfills was the "preferred method" because it allows better tracking, management and controls.
But Ms. Pitzer said regional landfill operations near Wheeling, Parkersburg and Charleston reduced any need for the CCS facility.
In Pennsylvania, there are 31 landfills authorized to accept solid waste from Marcellus Shale drilling operations. Another -- Waste Management Corp.'s Phoenix Landfill in Tioga County, which now can accept only construction and demolition waste -- has applied to convert to a residual waste landfill allowed to accept Marcellus drilling waste.
First Published June 25, 2011 12:00 am