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Action Groups Discuss Deterioration

By Staff | May 20, 2009

Wetzel County Board of Education had to call parents Thursday evening to inform them that children on buses 7 and 33 would be late arriving home because state Route 89 was blocked. They routed the buses out Doolin Run Road to reach their destination. The cause of the blockage was a Chesapeake Energy contracted truck of Diamond Y Enterprises that had rolled on its side in the second sharp turn heading down Anderson Run Hill. According to Sgt. John Brookover of the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office, his office was notified around 11:30 p.m. of the accident. He further explained that the truck was hauling what is called “dirty pit water” from a Chesapeake Energy-owned well and only about one half of the water leaked out of tank. The water was tested and found non-hazardous. The driver was on his way to McKeesport, Pa., for delivery.

If one would take a drive out Doolin Run Road and continue on almost 18 miles to the Silver Hill area, they would soon find out what terrible road conditions and road hazards they would encounter. On this unmarked road, one will have to look out for rigs hauling large trailers, equipment, rigging gear, sand, and water trucks to the Chesapeake Energy owned wells that are doting the area.

Much of the road going toward Silver Hill is literally torn in chucks in large places. Brock Ridge road is in the same damaged state. These roads also have been totally blocked at times by the large rigs hauling equipment trying to navigate the turns that they are too long in length to handle. The scene at winter is no better with the rigs trying to get traction on icy hills they must navigate.

Because of this traffic increase and large rigs pulling oversize equipment, the school bus for the Silver Hill area now has an escort vehicle from Chesapeake Energy in front of them in the morning and evening to make sure their passage is clear.

On May 15, two action groups, the Wetzel County Action Group and the Silver Hill Citizens Action Group, met to watch a presentation and discuss their issues with the road condition and other concerns at the Thistle Dew Farm on state Route 89.

Ray Renaud, Webmaster for the Wetzel County Action Group, gave a talk and presentation to those present on the current issues that concerns the citizens living in the area.

In his slide show, he showed just some of accidents happening with the large rigs, including a current accident that happened on Anderson Run Hill on state Route 89. Renaud and Ed Wade talked about another accident at Silver Hill near Johnson Ridge. This accident happened on April 28, in which the truck completely rolled on its side and blocked the road. Renaud showed pictures of the welder truck with some welding cylinder bottles that were uncapped.

Renaud addressed environmental concerns, noting diesel spills are happening. The citizens are asking Chesapeake to clean up spills and Renaud showed that they are complying, explaining the process.

Sony Stout, a concern citizen, asked about the dirt being put on the spills for clean up and then shoveled out. “Where does the dirt go from there? Where are they dumping it?” he asked. No answer was given.

Renaud showed photos of road cinders used in the winter so the trucks can get traction. The images showed cinder dust in the air and cinder runoff oozing into the local streams. He explained what contaminants the cinders contain.

Wade, a concern community advocate, said he would like to know what is in the water they use to water down the roads for dust near the wells, since it is brown in color.

Renaud showed a picture of a large pond built by Chesapeake Energy with no locked fence and no buoys in the pond. Talking about flares from the wells, he explained this is from fracting a well. In Europe, said Renaud, this is not allowed because the gas from the flare is toxic.

Another topic of the presentation was transportation. Numerous winter photos were shown of trucks, rigs, and equipment over steep embankments or across a road, blocking access until it is moved.

A speed limit has been asked of the drivers of these trucks sharing the narrow road with the residents, but they have been ignored, noted a concern citizen.

Renaud showed pictures of the local Silverhill Volunteer Fire Department area being totally blocked by large rigs with equipment parked there.

He did point out the community of New Martinsville is benefitting from the workers for Chesapeake Energy by them lodging and eating there. But he pointed out, at what cost for those living outside of the New Martinsville area?

Renaud stressed the safety; air, noise, and water pollution; and the decrease of property values of those living near these wells.

All present agreed that something needs to be done in a form of a state liaison for help with vehicle regulations, comprehensive permitting, road conditions, safety, and much more.

He announced that he has been in contact with Senator Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) and he is totally committed to helping them. “We need more (officials committed to the issue),” explained Renaud. “There are things we need from our legislators.” He stated that only the Public Service Commission can prosecute the weight limit on the trucks.

Renaud went on, “We need people who do the damage (to roads) to pay for it.” He added that money needs to be earmarked for the roads. “I have written letters to legislators and some don’t have a clue what is going on out here,” said Renaud.

He explained at the meeting that some states are passing regulations on these wells. “This is a state problem,” he noted.

Wade pointed out Chesapeake doesn’t like him or Renaud taking pictures of the activity, but they are public roads and it is legal to take photos. They both feel the public needs to see what is happening.

“We have been getting harassment by taking these photos and some fire departments are getting upset with us, but it is legal for us to do it,” stated Renaud.

Other members talked about the roads and repair, if any, to them. Renaud stated that Brock Ridge Road and four miles of state Route 89 are supposed to be paved in the near future, but he didn’t think the process he was told they were going to use would last long.

The Wetzel County Action Group has a Web site than includes pictures and much more information of what is happening in Wetzel County. It also contains other Web site links and indexes of information. Their Web page is www.wcag-wv.org.

According the the West Virginia Surface Owner’s Rights Organization, West Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of active oil and gas wells in the country.