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

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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.

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