June 4 DEP Public Hearing on Danny Webb Underground Injection Well in Lochgelly, WV
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by Beth Little |
The hearing at the Oak Hill High School was very well attended, especially since there was a conflicting meeting on school consolidation. From about 100 people in atten-dance, 15–20 of us made verbal comments.
When I first arrived, Julie Archer, of the Surface Owners Rights Organization (SORO), asked if I had the actual section number of the code indicating that the comment period extended for 10 days past the hearing, because the DEP representatives there had told her that comments closed at the end of the hearing. I did have it because we had anticipated the DEP saying that the hearing closed comments, as they have before. At Julie’s request, I approached the DEP, showed them the code number and text, and when they officially opened the hearing, they announced that com-ments would be received until June 14.
I also had the code number for the section saying that a fact sheet shall be prepared and be sent to the applicant and, on request, to any other person. I had asked for the fact sheet, but was told that the fact sheet was to go to the appli-cant, the EPA and other state/federal agencies. After the hearing, I asked for the fact sheet again and received it, but it was useless. It was just some general boilerplate text about permits for underground injection wells with no spe-cifics about the Lochgelly well.
I bring up these instances regarding the code to alert you readers that DEP staff do not necessarily know what the law is that they are supposed to be following.
There were several emotional speakers against grant-ing the permit—even some tears when pleading for the health of their children. There were also a couple of Webb employees who basically said that Danny Webb was a good guy and they needed their jobs. There was one man whose voice was so messed up that I couldn’t tell what he was trying to say. He apparently worked, or had worked, for Webb, and he was upset, but I didn’t understand whether he was for or against the permit, or whether his condition was a result of working at the well.
Ron Miller and Bill Laird, State Senators for the district, were there and seemed genuinely concerned.
I submitted a DVD with video taken at the Webb facility to substantiate my comments that Danny Webb is in viola-tion of the law.
The site has no security. The gate stands open while several trucks, tankers, and pickups drive in and out, and an ATV goes through. Even if the gate is closed, there is a by-June 4 DEP Public Hearing on Danny Webb Underground Injection Well in Lochgelly, WV pass for smaller vehicles that would stay open; and be-cause the site is not fenced, a person could walk into the site from virtually any direction.
The pits were not constructed according to engineered specifications, and seeps from the side of the pits have killed all vegetation, indicating toxic ingredients. There is orange staining on the soil, and the creek below runs bright orange. The claim by the DEP that this is due to acid mine drainage does not explain the high chloride content, the presence of barium, glycols and benzene in the test results, or the petroleum-like film on top of the creek that does not break up when touched. Even if it were acid mine drainage, this should not be allowed to be discharged into the waters of the state.
Another of my videos showed that the freeboard of the pits is less than the 2 feet required by DEP regulations. Local residents report that the pits have overflowed. They have also reported noxious odors, and there is a recorded event of hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the pits.
The DEP did not give a date for when they will make a decision about the permit. Meanwhile, the most outrageous violation of the law is that Danny Webb has been allowed to continue operating without a permit.