WEST VIRGINIA CODE-ARTICLE 15. SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT.

Here are some relevant excerpts from the code:
WEST VIRGINIA CODE
CHAPTER 22. ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES.
ARTICLE 15. SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT.

§22-15-1. Purpose and legislative findings.
(a) The purpose of this article is to establish a comprehensive program of controlling all phases of solid waste management….

f) The Legislature further finds that incineration technologies present potentially significant health and environmental problems….

(14) “Energy recovery incinerator” means any solid waste facility at which solid wastes are incinerated with the intention of using the resulting energy for the generation of steam, electricity or any other use not specified herein.

(15) “Incineration technologies” means any technology that uses controlled flame combustion to thermally break down solid waste, including refuse-derived fuel, to an ash residue that contains little or no combustible materials, regardless of whether the purpose is processing, disposal, electric or steam generation or any other method by which solid waste is incinerated.

(16) “Incinerator” means an enclosed device using controlled flame combustion to thermally break down solid waste, including refuse-derived fuel, to an ash residue that contains little or no combustible materials….

§22-15-8. Limit on the size of solid waste facilities; rulemaking.
(a) On and after the first day of October, one thousand nine hundred ninety-one, it is unlawful to operate any commercial solid waste facility that handles between ten thousand and thirty thousand tons of solid waste per month, except as provided in section nine of this article and sections twenty-six, twenty-seven and twenty-eight, articles four and four-a, chapter twenty-two-c of this code.

(b) Except as provided in section nine of this article, the maximum quantity of solid waste which may lawfully be received or disposed of at any commercial solid waste facility is thirty thousand tons per month.

(c) The director shall, within the limits contained in this article, place a limit on the amount of solid waste received or disposed of per month in commercial solid waste facilities. The director shall consider at a minimum the following criteria in determining a commercial solid waste facility’s monthly tonnage limit:

(1) The proximity and potential impact of the solid waste facility upon groundwater, surface water and potable water;

(2) The projected life and design capacity of the solid waste facility;

(3) The available air space, lined acreage, equipment type and size, adequate personnel and wastewater treatment capabilities; and

(4) Other factors related to the environmentally safe and efficient disposal of solid waste.

The sleeping giant awakes

Here in Hampshire county we have been blessed with beautiful mountain, scenery and rivers.  Many of us have wondered when the industrial machine would make its way to our doorstep.  I am afraid he is here and knocking very loudly.  You can spot his messengers, they wear nice suits, drive clean cars and are some of the most friendly people you will ever meet.  Do not be misguided by their seemingly innocent charm.  They are here for one reason, to spread the industrial machine to a place far from where they live.  West Virginia has always been the wiping boy of the east.  They came and took our timber leaving nothing but bare land and poverty.  Then they took our coal leaving the same and now they plan to drill deep into the earth and take what may be the last available hydrocarbon we have, gas.  To add to this image of using poor West Virginia we are now in the early stages of placing a trash recovery plant right next to our beautiful South Branch River!  The folks up north are running out of places to send their trash so they have targeted our fair state as the site of a very questionable new process to turn trash into fuel and recoverable resources.

For the first time in the 36 years I have lived in Hampshire County there is a scheduled protest meeting at the steps of the court-house in Romney to express the outrage at the construction of this new plant.  There has been little research into the feasibility of this plant doing what it is proposed to do.

Although the county Commissioners have little to do with the approval of this plant, they have given their thumbs up on the project.  The truth of the matter is the State Environment Protection Agency must make the final decision on this matter.  In theory it is not even our decision!  Right now the DEP is making a decision on whether to place this plant in our county, no hearing, no forums and no asking for input, just here it is!

I have been told that the Japanese were afraid to bring the United States into the war.  They refereed to us as the sleeping giant.  Maybe that speaks of our nature as Americans.  We are hard to get riled up but just like a bee’s nest, beware when you do!  I hope I see many of you riled up Americans on the court-house steps on Wednesday at 6:00pm to show the people in charge that we have a voice and we care about our state!

Passion on River Road

Last night I attended a meeting of concerned citizens to discuss the proposed construction of a plant to convert everyday trash to a usable fuel with little to no emissions.  First off, I do not believe this is possible, but that is not what I took away from the meeting.  I saw 20 plus people with passion in their eyes, a group with a common cause to save the river that has enhanced their lives so thoroughly.  This is the kind of passion I referred to a couple of weeks ago when individuals get fired up, ready to put it on the line for a belief they hold dear.  This is the kind of passion that made this country great.  Regardless as to whether or not this plant is built, it has evoked passion and that is what makes us all larger than the shadows we cast.  I hope we can stop this plant from destroying the beautiful River Road valley; after seeing the depth of conviction in the eyes of the people at this meeting, I think we can.

There has been much information in the newspapers over the last two weeks.  Some of it is true and some false.  The facts are currently being sorted out by all of us.  It is important that we become informed so that we can make a decision that is good for our children and our children’s children.  One man said, “Don’t throw trash in my yard.” An American Indian said, “Don’t throw trash on my world!”  We must begin to look at this planet as ours and discard the notion that we own small pieces of it totally for our own benefit. Everything we do affects everyone around us.  We have ONE Earth, and according to most scientists, there is not another earth-like-planet close enough that we can currently travel to it, so we are stuck here.  We better start treating our home with the respect it deserves or we will be homeless.

News Flash!  Big protest meeting on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6PM in front of the court house!

Fracking in Hampshire County, The Last Gold Rush

Ed & Rose-Two Wetzel County Real Life Heroes

There are pivotal times in our lives brought on by events that change the way we see the world.  Over the last six months I have been immersed in one of those slow-moving events.  As you may know, Hampshire County, my home for over thirty-five years, is in the sights of the gas companies.  In fact, their sights are focused narrowly on where I live.  I have been a very active member on a committee appointed by the County Commission to investigate and produce a document explaining the benefits and risks of gas development in our county.  The learning curve has been steep, and currently my brain feels saturated with the many aspects of this query.

In our committee’s search to fully understand the ramifications of gas development in our area, we decided to take a trip to Wetzel County, West Virginia, located next to the Ohio River.  The purpose of our trip was to see first hand the results of massive gas drilling in a relatively small area.  We met Rose Baker and Ed Wade Jr. who are living through this disaster.  They led us through the back roads, wallows and streams of their remote piece of our state.  One of our first stops was the entrance road where most of the large trucks make their way to the drilling sites.

Very large trucks destroying the roads

Rose told us that on a busy day there can be hundreds trucks traveling on this road in a 24 hour period.  The road is narrow and winding, riddled with ruts and pot holes caused by the extremely heavy trucks making their way up and down the hill.  At one time, before the drilling began, this was a fully paved road but now it is a hodge-podge collection of rutted paved sections and gravel.  In many places the sides of the road are cracked and separating from the main part of the road due to the large trucks forcing on-coming traffic to the edge of the road.  Owing to an agreement between Wetzel County Action Group and Chesapeake Gas, the school buses are escorted through the drilling area for safety reasons due to massive truck traffic.  Many places on the road are wet from what appears to be fluid dispersed from trucks.  One can only hope that it is fresh water.  We made our way up this long winding road, until we came to a meadow at the top of the hill where we stopped and viewed what once was a spectacular view of rolling mountains, pristine valleys and small streams meandering their way through the ravines.

A scar on the land

Like canker sores placed on the land, there were five visible drilling sites, each taking up approximately five acres and one huge compression station that must have covered 20 to 30 acres of mountain top.

Part of the pumping station

We were told that this was just the beginning and that many more wells were going to be drilled in this area.

This is some of the large compressors

Below us was a farmhouse that appeared to be occupied.  I asked Rose if anyone lived there.  She said a sheep farmer presently lives there; however, last year over one-fourth of his sheep mysteriously died.  No one ever determined why.  The man who lives in the farmhouse can no longer drink his water because it has numerous chemicals in it that showed up after the initial drilling.  Rose commented that she no longer is able to drink her water because of chemical contamination.  Of course, the gas company denies that they are responsible for any of these problems, claiming that these are the result of submerged gas tanks on people’s property that have leaked over time.

This is the drainage hole after they extended it

We followed Rose and Ed  to another site nearby.  At this site the drilling team created a problem with its drainage pond, which is where they place all the toxic chemicals during the drilling process.( see above photo)  The land owner’s attorney felt that this action was an example of gross negligence.   There was a large crater on the well-pad.  Ed explained that the gas company, under the watchful eye of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, breached the protective plastic liner and allowed the toxic fluid to flow into another unlined hole.  In  the process some of the fluid was discharged onto the hillside.  That hillside has been found to be contaminated; at this point it has not been cleaned up and continues to leach into nearby streams.  On another site the gas companies removed a hilltop and placed all the fill dirt over the side of the hill right above a stream valley.

The big SLIP
Moving the big slip back up the hill

After a short time the dirt collapsed into the valley, ruining the stream, taking out trees and destroying more of the land owner’s property.  The gas company has one dump truck and an excavator slowly attempting to move the slipped dirt back up the mountain.  At the rate they were moving dirt, they should be done in about ten years!

There were many places in the road where we passed over pipeline that was being placed to connect the many wells and pumping stations.  Most of this pipeline is placed underground which will allow the ground to recover over time, but the impact to wildlife and foliage is irreversible.

This is a pipeline avenue
Getting ready to install a pig in the pipeline

The emotional impact of this drilling operation is hard to grasp in a one-day trip, but the pain and frustration that were visible in Rose and Ed’s eyes were clear.  They have witnessed the destruction of their homes, the place where they grew up, the place where they once dreamed of raising their children in the safe and beautiful valleys of  Wetzel County.   One may say that it is their fault for allowing the gas companies the right to drill on their land.  It has been said that if you dance with the devil, the devil decides when you stop.  Well, this is not the case in Wetzel County.  Most of the drilling rights to this land were given away long ago, before current owners owned the land.  In fact, very few of the folks in Wetzel County are reaping any financial rewards for the gas extracted from their land.  The only people benefiting are the ones who probably live elsewhere and receive a check from the gas companies, and the local hotels, restaurants and stores that provide the out-of-state employees with their needs.  When the drilling is done, the gas men will pack up their gear and head to another place to do their work, leaving Wetzel County in worse financial shape than before they showed up.

Hampshire County has what some say is a large supply of gas under its rolling hills.  The companies claim that the search for gas “under our feet” is of a highly speculative nature.  At this point, it is important to understand how a well is financed.  If a company decides that there may be gas or oil in a location, it hires another company to find investors who then buy shares in the speculative drilling venture.  The drilling company will get paid whether they hit gas or not.  The gas company will make money either way.  Of course, if they hit gas or oil they stand to make a whole lot more money, but the companies are out nothing for drilling a hole in the earth and possibly destroying an aquifer in the process.  They just pick up their toys and go elsewhere.

The people in Hampshire County have some really important decisions to make in the next couple of years.  We must decide if we want happening in our county what has happened to Wetzel and several other counties in West Virginia.  YES, we want jobs, but at what cost?  Are we willing to give up our way of life because we are looked upon by industry as an easy target?  Is our county simply a place where they come to do what most people do not want happening in their own backyard?  Fortunately, most people in Hampshire County own their mineral rights. Many of these contracts are coming to their end in the near future.  Think very carefully, hire a lawyer to read your contract, question the gas men about what they plan to do and do not assent to anything that is not written down.  To protect yourself you must be the eyes and ears of your community and county; call your representatives, write letters, take pictures, keep a video log and write articles for the local newspaper submitting picture and videos.

Here in Hampshire County the future is in OUR hands.  I hope we have the wisdom to think of our children and our children’s children when we make that decision.

The viewpoint expressed in this article in no way represents the views of the Hampshire County Marcellus Committee, but are my own. If you wish to learn more about Wetzel County and the impact of the gas companies on their way of life, go to:

http://www.wcag-wv.org/

and see first hand the results of gas exploration on their county and the epic battle they have been involved in over the last four years .

All pictures were taken by Brent Walls who works for The POTOMAC RIVER KEEPERS, a group trying to protect our rivers.

www.potomacriverkeeper.org/support-us

Additional update on the new plant…a continuing story.

According to a person involved with the project.

The plant is a zero emission facility.

The plant will need a continual supply of natural gas.

The plant will need about 200,000 gallons of water/day.

The plant will create about 100 permanent jobs when completed.

The plant will be constructed on the river side of River Road.

The plant will make jet fuel.

The plant will also generate various products from the waste reduction process.

Trash will come in from northern states but they are agreeable to taking trash from our own area.

There is a possibility that they could use the waste from the Hampshire County waste water plant as their water supply and to dispose of the waste.

This plant would generate a large amounts taxes for the county.

Waste will be brought in by rail and a new spur will be built across the river.

The building will be almost 5 stories tall.

If everything being said about this plant is true it would be good addition to the county, even though it will destroy a large part of  the beautiful scenery along River Road. If you can add anything to this or make corrections, PLEASE DO!  An Informed public is a positive thing!

Incineration, there may be a price to pay

There is no doubt that our society has a huge problem with its trash. We are filling up massive tracks of land and covering it in the hope it will somehow magically disappear.  We used to dump it in the ocean, thus creating a large toilette-bowl-shaped mass of plastic and other debris floating around the Pacific Ocean.  The current rage is to burn trash and make energy or fuel, which sounds a little scary to me.

In our little neck of the woods, we have two major problems to face:  unemployment and too much trash.  So the idea of placing one of these large incinerators in our midst seems like a good idea.  It will create numerous jobs and help us get rid of our trash.  This plant claims to be a zero-emissions plant.  I have to take exception with this.  Millions of pounds of trash, which are composed of whatever we decide to throw away, will be brought into our county.  This trash will be burned in some fashion in turn produce some energy and possibly some petrol from the plastic.  Burning is usually done in the presence of oxygen which is taken from the air.  Whenever one burns something, there has to be some form of emission, whether it be a gas, fluid or solid.  The easiest way is to burn the trash and scrub the exhaust that is released to remove particulates so that the release is clean and not harmful to the environment. It is important to understand that any cleaning process involves collecting the waste being removed from the stack.  This material tends to be quite toxic and is difficult to dispose of.   At this point in my life I have never seen a perfectly clean exhaust coming from a smoke stack.  The trash we create is saturated with a smorgasbord of chemicals from heavy metals to numerous carcinogens to just plain nasty stuff.  When one incinerate these compounds, the potential of creating even more dangerous chemicals occurs.  If a process is capable of removing all these potential problems, more power to it, but as my high school physics teacher use to say, “You do not get something for nothing.” There is always a price to pay!

Another issue that needs to be considered is the possible inversion that might result from a smoke stack in the River Road valley.  If this were to occur, much of the release would be captured in the valley to be absorbed by people, animals and plants living there.

River Road is one of the nicest bike rides in the Hampshire county.  The pristine farmland, beautiful river and scenic mountains are as breathtaking as anywhere in the this country.  I hope we take the time to study this proposal before we leap because there is no turning back!