NEW MARTINSVILLE - Though the weather is getting a little colder, Ed Wade is glad he can again enjoy the Blake Run waterfall in Wetzel County.
Following orders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chesapeake Energy restored the waterfall that subcontractors working on the company's behalf removed as part of Chesapeake's drilling activities. The agency continues to investigate Chesapeake for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act in Wetzel County between January 2007 and November 2010.
Just up the road in Marshall County, Chesapeake officials continue working to stabilize the soil at the Ray Baker well pad, as directed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According the orders, the EPA has the ability to fine Chesapeake as much as $50,000 per day for allegedly removing the waterfall to create a gravel road in the stream channel of Blake Fork, about 2.4 miles north of the intersection of state Route 89, near Proctor. Agency spokeswoman Donna Heron said this week that no fines have yet been levied against Chesapeake, but the investigation is ongoing.
"The EPA issued an order that directed Chesapeake to restore a waterfall in Blake Fork in Wetzel County, West Virginia. Chesapeake has been complying with that order," Heron said, declining to comment further.
Wade is a member of the Wetzel County Action Group, local residents concerned about how natural gas drilling impacts the community. He is thankful to see the waterfall return.
"Everyone did a wonderful job putting the waterfall back together. It is very similar to the way it was," Wade said.
Stacey Brodak, director of corporate development for Chesapeake, said the driller is "in compliance with all of the EPA orders."
"Once the EPA approved these plans and we obtained all federal, state and local permits, Chesapeake engaged a contractor to conduct the EPA-approved work," she said.
Meanwhile, Chesapeake officials are working to stabilize the soil at the Ray Baker well pad in southern Marshall County after slips that are causing some concerns among residents.
Scott Hans, chief of the regulatory branch of the Pittsburgh District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said this is the second time his agency has required Chesapeake to make repairs at this drilling pad.
"There is a pretty significant slide with fill material migrating down a slope. We have required them to stabilize the site back to being a free-flowing tributary," he said, noting this body of water is unnamed.
Brodak said Chesapeake is working "around the clock to reinforce and restore the Ray Baker site in a safe and environmentally responsible manner."
"We are confident that the three wells on-site, which are drilled but not yet completed, are located in a safe, stable area on the pad," she said. "Chesapeake remains committed to safe and protective methods of operation and continuous improvement in all of our processes."