HARRISVILLE, W.Va. — A $275 million project in Ritchie and Doddridge counties by Antero Resources to move their natural gas business away from wastewater injection has drawn concern from some members of the extremely rural communities in those areas.
Kevin Ellis, Antero’s VP of Government Relations, said the creation of a water treatment plant and landfill along the Doddridge-Ritchie County line is the beginning of a better long-term environmental outcome in the area because it moves the company away from wastewater injection.
“If you are not able to re-consume that water, then you have to find a home for it,” he said. “It has to go some place. That some place today for the industry is typically disposal wells, injection wells. As we look to the future, we have a long-term play here in the basin. We have to find solutions for this waste stream.”
Wastewater injection has seen past legal challenges in West Virginia, but also has created environmental anxiety among residents who have been impacted. That anxiety aside, Ritchie County resident Lissa Lucas expressed concern that Antero’s proposed solution would create a different set of environmental and health problems.
“I think that what the company is trying to solve are not the things that need to be solved before we can even consider allowing such a project to go forward,” she said.
According to Ellis, the water treatment plant would recycle previously unuseable waste water. He estimated that 98 percent of the water would be fit for another use.
“You’re taking this stream of produced water, which is already here today, already being produced by our wells,” he said. “Current disposal of that water is really limited to just injection wells. That’s really where that water is dealt with.”
Lucas, who attended a public meeting in Harrisville last week that included representatives from the Friends of Hughes River Watershed Association, said the landfill would be of particular concern to residents of Ritchie County. Landfill leakage is not uncommon, and the Hughes River Water Board serves residents in Harrisville, Pennsboro, and Cairo.
“You’re asking us to take the risk,” Lucas said. “It’s a matter of privatizing the profits and socializing the risk. They are concentrating that risk on top of us.”
Kevin Ellis said, in addition to concerns over the future viability of wastewater injection, Antero saw a chance to reduce truck traffic that results from water transportation throughout the state.
“Environmentally, from an impact perspective, this is going to reduce truck traffic because of a central location,” he said. “When you do that, you also attain the other benefits attendant to that, which is less tailpipe emissions and so forth.”
“I’m glad they want a smaller footprint, naturally,” Lucas said. “If you are underneath that foot when it comes down, it doesn’t feel smaller to you.”
Other biproducts from the cleaning process would be dumped out-of-state, according to Ellis.
“We just don’t have the regulatory frame work for this type of waste stream in West Virginia today,” he said.