IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED TO PREVENT HARM TO WEST VIRGINIA STREAMS FROM GAS DRILLING WATER WITHDRAWALS

West Virginia rivers and streams are experiencing unusually low levels because of reduced rainfall. At these critically low flows, water withdrawals for Marcellus Shale gas well drilling threaten aquatic life in many streams. Regulations do not exist to control present nor future withdrawals. A permit system for water withdrawals is needed immediately, perhaps by a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) emergency rule. In the mean time, drilling and service companies should adhere to the DEP guidance discussed below.

In response to public concerns about the potential environmental impacts of increasing Marcellus Shale gas well drilling activity in West Virginia, the DEP issued an Industry Guidance document on January 8, 2010. One of the three focus areas concerns water use and withdrawal from streams. In no case shall the operator withdraw water from ground or surface waters at volumes beyond which the waters can sustain. The DEP developed a guidance tool to assist drillers in minimizing or eliminating impacts associated with their stream water withdrawal. The guidance divides the state into areas associated with a stream gauge that has been determined to be statistically representative of streams in the area by the U.S. Geologic Survey. Two numbers were then determined for each area based on “poor or minimum flow” and “good flow.” If the daily flow is at or above the “good flow” regime, the possibility of taking water exists so long as proper precautions are observed. If the daily flow is below the “poor or minimum flow” regime, water should not be withdrawn from any stream in the area. It should be noted that many aquatic biologists believe that this minimum flow does not adequately protect aquatic life and should be significantly higher.

The guidance tool can be accessed directly to determine if stream flows in a given area are high enough to allow drillers to withdraw water for their needs at any given time: http://gisonline.dep.wv.gov/wwt/index.html. The tool indicates that most streams in West Virginia are too low to permit safe water withdrawals at this time. In most cases flows are significantly below the allowable minimums.

Barry Pallay, Vice-President, Upper Mon River Association

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4 thoughts on “IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED TO PREVENT HARM TO WEST VIRGINIA STREAMS FROM GAS DRILLING WATER WITHDRAWALS

  1. Richard Byers

    I feel that like the coal mines the gas drillers should be made accountable for all their adverse actions on our ecology. They have no regulations put on them for water wells that are lost or polluted. I feel they should be made to recipracate what they screw up.

    Reply
  2. John R.Stenger

    AMEN. HOW MUCH MONEY HAVE LEGISLATORS TAKEN FROM OIL/GAS DRILLERS TO GET ELECTED SO THAT THEY MIGHT WORK FOR THEM INSTEAD OF PROTECTING ENVIRONMENTS LIKE STREAMS???????? THEY AIN’T WORKING FOR CITIZENS.

    Reply

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