How it went in Wetzel
On January 21 at a meeting in Great Cacapon, Rose Baker presented facts and photographic slides about the impact gas fracking has had on Wetzel County. The expose was an eye-opening education for the 50 attendees from Morgan County, where the possibility of fracking has become a local issue.
Baker reported that 33 gas well pads are concentrated in a small area in the northern part of Wetzel County where she lives. It has been common practice for small land-service companies to purchase mineral rights from property-owners as cheaply as possible and sell them to gas companies at a high profit, so property-owners don’t get the rightful value of their mineral rights.
Preparation for fracking in Wetzel County began with mountaintop removal and deforestation involving burning. Most of the level areas needed for fresh-water holding ponds, gas well pads, fracking waste pits, condensate tanks, and other fracking apparatus were prepared on slopes without using measures to prevent erosion.
Due to inadequate preparation, repeated land slips (land slides) have occurred at 27 well pads and some fresh-water holding ponds and fracking waste pits. Land slips involving structures that house toxic materials, such as fracking waste pits and condensate tanks, pose high risk for ground water contamination.
Additional land-clearing was needed for installing the gas pipelines that extend from each well pad across the county. Other than obtaining the required right-of-way, there has been little regulation over pipeline installation. There also have been several pipeline explosions.
The practices of gas venting and flaring (burning) to reduce gas pressure do reduce the risk of explosion but also pollute the air. Flaring can go on legally for up to 10 days and produces continuous noise. The natural environment has been further destroyed by the practice of piping water from nearby creeks and rivers to the fresh water holding-ponds. One stream was completely drained and filled in with gravel.
The State Department of Environmental Protection required that the culprit gas company “restore” the stream. There have been no other attempts at restoring the natural environment.
In contrast, when a well produces no more gas, it is abandoned, leaving highly flammable condensate tanks and other industrial components on site.