WV Host Farms Program is currently working with Duke University researchers in order to provide Duke with access into WV for their ongoing research on water quality in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. On May 25, 2012, Tom Darrah, Ph.D. came to Doddridge County, WV. He collected baseline well water samples from 10 homes along Brushy Fork Road and Porto Rico Road in New Milton, WV, where several Marcellus wells are proposed to be drilled in the near future.

Through this partnership with the WV Host Farms Program, Duke is able to get in on the front end of Marcellus drilling activity in West Virginia, in order to collect water quality baseline data prior to the start of hydraulic fracturing activity near these homes. Areas in several other WV counties will also be included in the baseline water assessments. These efforts are part of the ongoing research being done by Dr. Avner Vengosh, a geochemist at The Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Dr. Vengosh’s area of expertise includes environmental and aqueous geochemistry, isotope hydrology, water quality, salinization of water resources, naturally occuring contaminants, health, water quality and hydraulic fracturing. Dr. Darrah, also a geochemist, recently joined the Duke research team, coming from University of Massachusets where he was a Research Assistant Professor.

During a recent visit from Duke University on August 22nd and 23rd, Tom Darrah, Ph.D, collected an additional round of samples of well water from 20 homes in four separate communities in Doddridge County where drilling is about to start or planned in the near future.

To read more about the work Duke is planning to do in WV through access provided by the WV Host Farms Program, click on the button to the right.

“Un*earthed” documentary filmmaker comes to Doddridge,Harrison,and Wetzel Counties through WV Host Farms Program to interview landowners.

The WV Host Farms Program hosted a visit by Jolynn Minnaar, of Capetown, South Africa, who passed through Doddridge and Harrison Counties on June 18th and
19th, 2012, and Wetzel County for several days after.
Host farm volunteers provided a place to stay while she collected stories of landowner impacts and gathered film footage of well site activity in WV. Minnaar was accompanied during her travels in the U.S. by Hilary Acton, of Ithaca, NY, who had been escorting her to various locations around Ohio, and PA for her film project. Ms. Minnaar was able to meet and interview several landowners in WV as part of her ongoing research for the documentary she is producing called Un*earthed.

For a preview of the work being done by Jolynn Minnaar, you can view these video links below of the upcoming documentary to be released later in 2012.

Photo above of independent filmmaker, Jolynn Minnaar, taken 6-18-2012 in Doddridge County near a Marcellus well site off RT 50 in West Union. Ms. Minnaar is producing a documentary called “Un*earthed” which addresses the controversy over hydraulic fracturing.

Photo on right: Jolynn Minnaar seen with Leanne Kiner of Salem, WV on June 19th, 2012. Ms. Kiner is shown standing in front of the “water buffalo” water system beside her house. Directly across the road shown it the photo background is the Marcellus well site drilled by Antero Resources in 2011. The company delivered the water tank several months ago, disconnecting Ms. Kiner from her well water system in her home after it was discovered that her well water contained arsenic levels well above the safe drinking water limit. Ms. Kiner shared her story with the filmmaker of what it was like for her living so close to a drilling operation and the impact it had on her health and quality of life.

There are many other opportunities being planned with the help of our network of volunteer landowners. Some of these initiatives include:

— Visiting existing oil and gas well sites on private properties (with landowner permission) and making visual observations of the condition of the wells. This could include looking for indication of leakage (dead vegetation around well site, smell of methane in the air) verifying that the API number and other required information is properly displayed on the well site. Making notations of well road and well site conditions, proper erosion control, fencing around the well to protect people and animals, indication of any deterioration of pipes, rusting, damaged parts or equipment, debris or trash left around site. These are visual observations that can be made by volunteers, documented via photographs and written notations, and then forwarded to the WV DEP for follow-up.

Actually this type of effort is already being done informally by a volunteer in Putnum and Kanawah counties. It could easily be expanded on a much larger scale through the efforts of volunteers to assist with the project. The WV DEP Office of Oil and Gas has only 16 state inspectors to monitor the condition of 59,000 existing oil and gas wells throughout the state, as well as provide proper oversight of the current Marcellus well drilling activities. This type of well monitoring project would be a great opportunity for volunteers throughout the state to help them identify problem areas at some of these well sites and then be able to initiate corrective action.

— Monitoring emissions from gas compressor stations is another opportunity that engages volunteers. WV DEP does no monitoring of emissions from gas compressor stations. By working with researchers who study methane emissions and air quality issues associated with drilling, our volunteers can be trained and equipped with hand held air quality detection meters to check emissions levels at compressor stations on a regular basis and report their findings to researchers and determine that emissions do not exceed EPA limits.