Ziemkiewicz Comments on Recent Shale Gas Study

Written by Susan Phillips, Reporter, State Impact on . Posted in Media, News

Contaminants related to shale gas production found in well water in Northeast Pennsylvania likely results from surface spills and leaks, rather than fluid migrating up from fracked wells, according to a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study also found a correlation between detectable hydrocarbons and proximity to shale gas wells that had been cited by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for health and safety violations.

None of the detected levels of hydrocarbons in 64 samples taken from Bradford, Susquehanna and Wayne counties between May 2012 and June 2014, included significant levels of hydrocarbons. All the samples were below 200 parts per billion, which is considered a trace amount.

“Our data is telling us that [the hydrocarbons] are coming from the top down,” said Brian Drollette, lead author on the study and a graduate student at Yale University’s chemical and environmental engineering department. “It’s probably resulting from surface spills near the hydraulically fractured sites.”

The researchers looked for two different types of organic compounds, including those in the gasoline range, as well as those in the same chemical family that includes diesel. They also looked for 54 volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene.

The team, led by researchers at Yale University, wanted to find out if there were any detectable levels of hydrocarbons associated with hydraulic fracturing in residential water wells, or if there were some other natural sources of contamination. Methane migration has been linked to poor well casing, but natural sources of methane can also be present in aquifers.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and who was not involved in this research, says it’s a “good, sound study” that adds to the growing body of literature about the impact of shale gas drilling on water quality.

“I don’t think too many people have looked at the actual migration pathways of organic compounds,” said Ziemkiewicz.

He’s conducted his own research, and says the link to surface spills, rather than upward migration of frack water, confirms his own study conclusions.

“That’s what I’ve been saying for the past five years,” said Ziemkiewicz. “My point has been all along that it’s mainly surface spills and illegal transport and dumping that are responsible for most of the contamination. And migration from the actual Marcellus level up to the surface is extremely unlikely.”

Read the full article on the State Impact website.

Water Resources Conference Comes to Lewis County

Written by Alex Hines, Lewis, Gilmer, Barbour and Randolph County Reporter on . Posted in Media, News

ROANOKE – The Water Resources Conference of the Virginias began on Monday, Oct. 5 at Stonewall Resort.  The annual meeting brought together the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center at Virginia Tech. The two organizations meet each year to share research with people in academics, industry and politics in an effort to keep water resources safe and usable.

“There needs to be some type of dialogue to translate the research to something that policymakers and industry can understand, and I think that’s one part of it,” said WVWRI’s Andrew Stacy.

The two organizations are funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the conference is one of their major requirements each year, spreading the research to those interested. Organizers in both states said the joint conference makes it much easier to pass information along to those interested.

“We also share a lot of similar water challenges, with regard to energy extraction, coal mining, natural gas drilling, and so many of the issues in both Virginia and West Virginia are identical,” said VWRRC Director Stephen Schoenholtz.

Read the full article on the WBOY website.

Ziemkiewicz comments West Virginia needs hard data on shale gas drilling waste to determine safe disposal

Written by Glynis Board, West Virginia Public Broadcasting on . Posted in Media, News

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are lessons to be learned from Montana on how to handle drill cuttings and solid waste from fracking, reports Glynis Board of West Virginia Public Radio.

“There are lots of federal regulations governing what businesses can legally dump into water, the ground, or release into the air. But the gas industry is getting around a lot of those regulations. The oil and gas industry enjoys exemptions from seven federal laws, including one that is supposed to protect human health from the hazards of waste disposal. Other states have passed their own laws regulating this waste to compensate. But it’s a looser system in West Virginia,” writes Board.

Past practice by drillers was to bury drill cuttings on site.

Marc Glass a remediation specialist for an environmental consulting firm said there’s evidence frack waste needs cleaned up.

While Communications Director at the DEP, Kelly Gillenwater reports, “no remediation of drilling sites has been deemed necessary due to drill cuttings. [DEP] took radiation meters to more than a dozen sites in 2014 as part of a project with [the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources] and no harmful levels of radiation were detected.”

Paul Ziemkiewicz, the director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, thinks hard data is needed.on shale gas drilling waste.

“The big question that’s still unanswered is whether this stuff is hazardous or not. And if it’s hazardous that starts informing what kind of landfill it ought to go into, what standards that landfill ought to be meeting,” said Ziemkiewicz.

Ziemkiewicz told Board it’s not that nobody knows what to do with this industrial waste. There are tests and procedures that other industries have to use, and states can require oil and gas companies to follow those requirements, too. That’s what Montana does.

Board suggests there are three lessons to be learned from Montana.

Unprecedented: West Virginia University and Ohio State are raising the bar for shale drilling research

Written by Sarah Tincher, Energy Reporter, The State Journal on . Posted in Media, News

A team of researchers with West Virginia University and Ohio State University are getting up close and personal with the Northeast Natural Energy drilling site in Morgantown to study various impacts of shale drilling, and project leaders are calling it an unprecedented opportunity to drive change in the oil and gas industry.

“It’s been very difficult to get all of the kinds of information on the process that we really need to do the good science; to match up the field data with the process data,” said Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University. “It’s just extremely important to be able to gather this kind of information because it’s very expensive to do it. And to have the opportunity and to be in on that opportunity, it’s really groundbreaking and really important for science and for the people that science serves, which is the rest of the world, really.

“More transparency, better accuracy, better precision,” McCawley said. “That’s the name of the game in science.”

‘Absolutely critical’

The team of geoscientists, hydrologists, engineers, ecologists, social scientists and public health professionals began work on the study earlier in the summer through a five-year, $11 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

“I think (the partnership) is absolutely critical,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of West Virginia Water Research Institute. “Here you have a company that’s operating that’s allowing us access to their site. You have a federal agency, the U.S. DOE, that’s providing the funding to make all this happen, and then you have two major research universities.

“And between them we have a tremendous amount of capability.”

Read the entire article on The State Journal website.