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Odor Awakens Family

By Staff | Aug 25, 2010

This photo shows the emissions of the Rine Well on the right and the Wood home on the left. Sarah Wood was awakened by her three-year-old son complaining of a smell on Aug. 17. She quickly found the source of the odor, the Rine Well. (Photos provided)

Just before 8 a.m. on Aug. 17 three-year-old Billy Wood woke up his mother, Sarah Wood, by saying, “Something stinks.” In a panic, Sarah checked the house and then went outside their Silver Hill-area home to find the odor was “20 times worse” outside.

“The fumes just kind of hit you in the face,” said Sarah, who added that she could hear gas well operations venting off a well.

She could also see what she described as an excessive amount of fumes. She went to the nearby Rine Well Site and asked if they could shut it down a little bit or do something differently. When Sarah returned home she began getting a headache.

She called 911 and the national and state level of the Division of Air Quality. A representative of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection came the next day, said Sarah, and had the site operators shut down a little. “They addressed the problem,” said Sarah. “He (the DEP representative) was very polite and seemed like he was trying to help.”

According to Kathy Cosco, communications director for the WVDEP, the department did approach the well drillers and tell them they needed to come up with a solution to the smelly output. They had finished drilling one leg of the Rine well and then stopped where they were, did some research, and are now getting new gas separators to handle the issue. Cosco said those were to arrive the first part of this week and will be installed immediately.

This photo gives a better picture of the air emissions.

“What we believe is going to happen is the emissions will be collected more efficiently in these newer gas separators and if this works, if this turns out to be the solution to this problem, then they will use these gas separators on all their future wells in the area,” said Cosco.

“We’re continuing to review what is happening there and following progress of things at the site,” said Cosco.

“They did not identify anything as a particular failure, but perhaps the equipment wasn’t as efficient as it should have been.”

She further said the inspector didn’t indicate the emissions were at a dangerous level, but clearly it was a concern to the neighbors. The DEP received a few calls about the incident. “Had it been deemed a dangerous situation,” said Cosco, “our inspector would have issued a violation to them and they have not received any violations in relation to this.”

The well is permitted by Chesapeake Energy.