CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Environmental Protection is pushing lawmakers to enact a bill which codifies a presently standing order from the DEP on the disposal of drill cuttings.

Traditionally, the material removed when gas companies drilled traditional gas wells were buried on the site of the landowner. However, the new horizontal drilling operations produce larger volumes of material and legislation passed last year requires them to be hauled off site to an approved landfill.

“The bill said these cuttings had to be disposed of in a landfill and we didn’t go any further with provisions about how that might happen,” said state DEP Secretary Randy Huffman.

Huffman said under the present language of the law, landfills could mix the cuttings with regular garbage. He issued an emergency order which required the cuttings to be separated from regular trash into a separate cell of the landfill.  The law does require liners and lechate monitoring at landfill sites where they are disposed. Huffman wants his order to be made into law.

“Given the public concern over this, let’s go to the legislature and have the debate,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing.”

Huffman said the greatest concern with the cuttings from wells in the Marcellus Shale wells is naturally occurring radio activity. The material is brought to the surface from so far into the ground it can produce radioactive waste. Despite the concern, Huffman thinks the landfill provisions will negate any potential problems, but they want to keep an eye on things.

“We think that’s something we need to continue to monitor,” he said. “Right now we don’t think there’s a reason to be concerned, but given there are more questions than answers, we’re going to continue to look at that.”


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  • Paul

    I believe at the public hearing there was 19-1 speaking against the bill with concerns with what is in the drill waste, the unknowns and with the tonnage exceeding the approved landfill disposal limits. Where do you find info on the landfills treating this drilling waste and hauling away for another use?.

    • Aaron

      I did a lot of research Paul and found that various states use cuttings for many different applications. The State of TX not only uses it for land treatment, particularly in sandy areas, they also use treated cuttings in road base.

      You do understand that all were talking about her is dirt removed from the ground during drilling? Normally dirt from drilling is left on site and treated there as needed but with Marcella Shale drilling and the amount of dirt being removed, that is simply not feasible, thus the use of landfills.

      • Paul

        Many of us have done a lot of research and dug a little deeper to know that drill cuttings is simply just not dirt. If it is, what is in it needing treatment? In Texas in 2012, an oil company had to pay a $1.35 million fine after drilling waste that was disposed of on their “landfarm” contaminated nearby water sources. The road base tests in other states are at drill pads and access roads, not being used on public roads.

        • Aaron

          I didn't mean to imply that the dirt was containment free. That is why it needs to tested, treated and where possible, reused. One use is likely in public roads as initial test have been very promising.

          I'm curious though, what would you have drillers do with this waste?

          • Paul

            First, the shale is a rock, not dirt, and yes it is contaminated rock brought up from depths close to a mile down. The key WV study mandated by the legislature examined only materials from the vertical portion of wells, not from the horizontal "Black Rock". So lets spend some drillers and state money to test it and characterize this waste and then we can debate landfill or a reuse of it.

  • Aaron

    It's not a bad bill. The waste will be taken to a land fill where it can be monitored, treated and likely hauled away for other uses.

  • thornton

    That would be akin to separating apple seeds from garbage due to the cyanide within them.

    But, it will make the landfill and trucking folks a bit more lucre.

  • Coalwiz

    Radioactive Waste?

    Geez.......I wonder which way the Gazette is going to go on this?