Guest column/Placement of wellpad in Weirton would be bad move

Truck traffic, volatile organic air emissions and water contamination are just some of the dangerous issues associated with high-pressure hydraulic fracking. Considering the placement of a well pad in Weirton is asking for trouble.

Fracking requires water, sand and chemicals. The U.S. EPA and Department of Energy said that an average of 7 million gallons of fluid are used for each well. If 1 percent are chemical additives, that means upward of more than 70,000 gallons of chemicals including biocides, surfactants, and anti-corrosive agents are required for each well and will be stored on site.

Additionally, a study by Yale Public Health found that of these hundreds of chemicals, more than 80 percent have never been reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Of the 119 that have been reviewed by IARC, 55 were found to be carcinogenic. Among the chemicals most frequently used in fracking, 24 are known to block the hormone receptors in humans, according to a 2017 study published in Science Direct.

Fracking has contaminated water wells and a 2020 article in the Journal of Petroleum Technology stated “wellbore integrity cannot be taken for granted.” The XTO Energy well blowout in Belmont County in February 2018 was from a “failure of the gas well’s casing or internal lining.” This blowout released the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of methane by oil and gas industries in countries like France.

The waste water left over after a well is fracked is known as produced water. In addition to brine, which is a result of the prehistoric conditions which formed the oil and gas reserves, the waste contains radioactive materials (Radium-226 and Radium-228) and any chemicals initially injected with the fluid.

In 1978, the EPA exempted oil and gas wastes from exploration and production activities from the hazardous waste management program Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. This includes produced water, drilling fluids and drill cuttings. Yet, in 2002 the EPA admitted that just because the wastes were exempt this did not mean that wastes could not present a hazard to human health and the environment.

The oil and gas industries also are exempt or excluded from certain sections of these federal environmental laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to Know Act.

Siting a well pad in the middle of a heavily populated area as proposed in Weirton would be a disaster. Weirton residents should not be the sacrifice community for the oil and gas industry.

(Pokladnik, a resident of Uhrichsville, holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, master’s and doctorates in environmental studies and is certified in hazardous materials regulations.)


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