Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz’

WVU Researchers Unveil Ways to Reduce Environmental, Health Risks Associated with Shale Gas Extraction

Written by Tamara Vandivort on . Posted in News, Uncategorized

A new study by researchers at West Virginia University offers 10 recommendations for reducing the environmental and human health effects associated with horizontal drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process.

The recommendations address air, noise and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws associated with horizontal gas well development and completion.

The study, titled Practical measures for reducing the risk of environmental contamination in shale energy production, is co-authored by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute John Quaranta, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and Michael McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Gas extraction from shale gas formations has been made possible by recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology. In the eastern United States, the Marcellus Formation gas play is one of the nation’s major natural gas reserves and in West Virginia alone, nearly 3,000 horizontal wells have been developed since 2008.

While rapid adoption of these methods has led to a surge in natural gas production in the United States, it has also increased public concern about its environmental and human health effects.

“These facilities are often located within a few hundred meters of homes and farms, many of which are supplied by shallow water wells,” explains Ziemkiewicz. “As a result, many of the public’s concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as well as light and noise associated with horizontal drilling and well completion. This study was initiated largely due to these public concerns.”

Ziemkiewicz, along with the other researchers, conducted a thorough review of environmental literature relevant to shale gas development and examined over 15 Marcellus shale facilities in northern West Virginia. The researchers provide the following recommendations as a result of their study:

• On-site containment – Well sites should have properly constructed containment structures in the event of a well blowout or massive fluid leak.

• Blowout preventers – All wells should include blowout preventers to bring any uncontrolled fluid release under control quickly.

• Wellbore integrity – All wells should be pressure tested before hydraulic fluid injection.

• Waste transportation plans –The planned disposal of liquid and solid waste should be a required and enforceable component of the well’s permit.

• Solid waste characterization – Additional studies on the solid wastes from hydraulic fracturing are needed in order to identify inorganic, organic and radioactive contaminants.

• Pits and impoundments – Better training is needed for regulatory and industry field inspectors to significantly improve the design and construction of storage pits and impoundments for liquid waste.

• Air monitors and sound meters – Installation of air monitors and sound meters at sensitive locations and connect to a central monitoring station.

• Noise reduction – Route traffic away from residences (where possible), use better wetting agents to reduce peak dust exposures, and stage traffic to reduce both diesel exhaust concentrations and noise.

• Characterization of the source of airborne contaminants – Further research is needed to identify the source of airborne contaminants found at horizontal drilling operations in order to effectively manage emissions.

• Performance based standards – Require placement of continuous monitoring instruments near sensitive locations for feedback and process control at drill sites for air, light and noise.

While the study identified several problem areas that need to be addressed, Quaranta is quick to point out that the industry and regulatory agencies are already incorporating some of their recommendations.

“We’re seeing more inspection guidelines, more training opportunities for regulatory personnel and industry field inspectors, and better emergency management protocols are being put in place,” said Quaranta. “Our recommendations are already having an impact.”

The study was also recently accepted for publication in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts. The study is currently available online and will be included as part of the journal’s special collection on the topic of hydraulic fracturing for the upcoming July issue. Located in the United Kingdom, the Royal Society of Chemistry is the United Kingdom’s professional body for chemistry and the world’s leading chemistry community.

“Hydraulic fracturing is either currently being used or planned for use around the United States and in a number of other countries to increase the production of natural gas,” explains McCawley. “We wanted to share our findings with not only the people of West Virginia, but also within a broader community of scientists through this current publication with hopes that there will be further discussion of the ideas we present as well as possible suggestions for alternative strategies.”

In 2012, WVU introduced its “Mountains of Excellence” for strategic investment in research areas where potential for growth and substantial return on investment makes sense. One of the initial areas of focus is utilizing shale gas responsibly.

To read the study in its entirety and to see the full list of recommendations, visit

The West Virginia Water Research Institute has been in existence since 1967 and has served as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. The Institute is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.



CONTACT: Glenn Waldron, WV Water Research Institute


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Fracking Waste Disposal Still A Question

Written by Glynis Board and Ashton Marra on . Posted in Media, Uncategorized

The House and Senate have spent weeks working on House Bill 4411 dealing with the disposal of hydraulic fracturing drill cuttings in land fills. Earlier in the session, the House of Delegates held a public hearing on the issue. But members could not agree on the terms of the bill and late Saturday evening it ended up in a conference committee.

The conference agreement came down to this: landfills who want to accept drill cuttings from fracking sites must apply for permits from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Service Commission. So far, seven are in the process of doing so. Those seven would be the only landfills allowed to apply for the permits for two years. They must put radon detectors at their front gates to test trucks, cannot mix the drill cuttings with municipal waste and must charge a $1 fee per ton they accept. The first $750 thousand collected will go toward a study on the waste due to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance next year.

That agreement, however, did not make it to the clerks’ desks in time to be put to a vote and the bill died, leaving no legislative restrictions on these cuttings and their disposal.

Experts to field water questions in show

Written by on . Posted in News, Uncategorized

CHARLESTON — “The Law Works,” a weekly television show on West Virginia PBS that discusses legal issues affecting the lives of West Virginians, will conduct a special one-hour live call-in show Thursday, Feb. 13, focused on the Jan. 9 chemical spill into the Elk River that affected residents in nine West Virginia counties.

Scheduled guests for the show include: Alan Ducketman, M.D., professor in occupational and environmental health sciences at West Virginia University; Paul F. Ziemkiewicz, Ph.D., director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute; and Patrick C. McGinley, professor at the West Virginia University College of Law.

“I’m looking forward to a lively discussion,” program host Dan Ringer said in a press release. “Water safety is something we all take for granted, and this incident has shown just how fragile our water resources are. I’m hoping this episode of ‘The Law Works’ will help people better understand their rights and expectations when it comes to managing natural resources we all depend on.”

Calls will be taken from 8 p.m. the day of the show until a few minutes before 9 p.m.

“The Law Works” regularly airs at 8:30 p.m. each Thursday on WV PBS and Fridays at 11 a.m. on WV PBS 2, where available.

More information about this week’s and recent topics from the program is available at The Law Works website,, including YouTube postings of recent programs.

UPDATE –  Below is “The Law Works” special call-in program that aired on February 13, 2014.

Water tests continue, still no estimate of when do not use order will be lifted

Written by Shuana Johnson, Metro News on . Posted in News

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Water testing continued in parts of nine West Virginia counties on Friday, the day after West Virginia American Water Company issued a do not use order for its customers in Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Jackson, Clay, Logan and Roane counties along with Culloden in Cabell County.

On Friday morning, Jeff McIntyre, WVAW president, still could not provide an estimate on when the order may be lifted.  “We have run some tests and we can detect the material, there is the material present, but we don’t know how to quantify it,” McIntyre said.

The material was an undetermined amount of a chemical, identified as 4-methylcyclohexane methane, which is used to scrub coal.  It leaked into the Elk River, which feeds the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, from a nearby plant, Freedom Industries, on Thursday.

McIntyre said his company was first notified of the potential problem around 12 p.m. Thursday and more than five hours before the do not use order was issued for an estimated 200,000 West Virginians.

“It’s very miserable not to have drinking water,” said Kent Carper, Kanawha County Commission president, who was working with state and local officials to coordinate water distribution in Kanawha County.

As of Friday morning, McIntyre said there were still many questions about the chemical.

WVAW was working with toxicologists with the manufacturer of the chemical that was being stored at the facility to try to understand the risks that could be associated with the chemical.  “In other words, what kind of quantities can be present in drinking water and not pose harm to our customers?”

State officials were also involved.  “Our emergency response team has worked to develop a testing protocol and a sampling plan on the chemical at issue.  Initial samples have been taken and additional sampling and testing will continue throughout the situation,” said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday morning.

Those with West Virginia American Water Company, the state Bureau of Health and emergency responders were coordinating the sampling effort.  “This process will take time, but we continue to work quickly to provide information related to the ability to life the ‘do not use’ order by West Virginia American Water Company,” Tomblin said.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, a West Virginia University professor, had been looking into the composition of the chemical.  He said it does pose some health dangers.  “If you breathe it, in its pure form, it is a lung irritant.  In its pure form, on skin contact, it will cause irritation.  If you drink this stuff, you have to drink quite a bit of it in order to die,” said Ziemkiewicz.