Drilling mud entering creek through cracks in creekbed is a common occurrence, kills fish; 6,000 gallons drilling mud and water enters home, destroys it

Pipeline Drilling Mud Enters Creek by Fred Connors, October 27, 2013, The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register
An infiltration of more than 6,000 gallons of “drilling mud” into a Valley Grove home Thursday appears to be part of a larger natural gas pipeline problem, as the fluid also seeped into nearby Little Wheeling Creek twice last week. West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said about 30 fish – mostly minnows – died in Little Wheeling Creek when drilling fluid pushed up through cracks in the creek’s bed. The drilling operation is part of MarkWest Energy’s pipeline infrastructure in Ohio County. “Twice (last) week, they were drilling about 40 feet under the stream when drilling mud infiltrated natural fractures in the rock and entered the surface water,” Aluise said of the MarkWest operation, which crossed under U.S. 40 and the creek as it headed south. He described drilling mud as a non-toxic clay mixture with bentonite as its main ingredient. It is used to lubricate and cool the drill bit and to transport rock fragments and cuttings from the drilling area to the surface.

Aluise said drilling mud entering a creek through cracks in the creek bed is not an unusual occurrence. “It happens,” he said. “In the industry they call it inadvertent return.” Aluise said after the fluid entered the stream, MarkWest crews used sand bags to dam the area and create a pool containing the mud to prevent it from flowing downstream and into Wheeling Creek. “They will do a complete stream remediation after the drilling is completed,” Aluise said. … “MarkWest may be cited for violations impacting the state’s water,” he said. “That decision will probably be made within the next few days.”

Just what killed the fish remains unclear, as both MarkWest and DEP officials agree that drilling mud is non-toxic. … Benjamin Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, wants proof the fluid is non-toxic. “The facts do not add up,” he said. “They should do a laboratory sampling (of the drilling mud) and show us the results. That will tell if it is non-toxic.”

Another drilling mud spill occurred earlier this month in Harrison County near Cadiz when the substance ran into Conotton Creek and onto the properties of two homeowners, affecting their private drinking water. The spill occurred during construction of the ATEX pipeline, which will carry liquid petroleum products from Pennsylvania to Texas. [Emphasis added]

Valley Grove Home Destroyed, ‘Drilling mud’ floods from pipeline project by Fred Connors, October 25, 2013, The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register
Becky and John Wieczorkowski’s Valley Grove home flooded and ripped apart Thursday morning after 6,000 gallons of water and “drilling mud” from a nearby pipeline operation infiltrated the home through an abandoned water well. Becky Wieczorkowski said she heard cracking sounds at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and then noticed a piece of the ceiling fall into the bathtub. “Before I realized what was happening, I saw the living room ceiling separate from the wall and I could see outside,” she said. “One of the (pipeline) guys told me the house moved off of its foundation and I should get out and stay out.” Wieczorkowski, who shares the home with her husband and two dogs, said 4 feet of drilling fluid and water poured into the basement. Workers from MarkWest Energy had to break out a basement window to gain access for pumping equipment.

Robert McHale, manager of governmental and regulatory affairs for MarkWest Energy, said workers were doing a horizontal bore under the road near the Wieczorkowski home when the drilling fluid pushed up through the home’s basement floor. “We were roughly one-third through the bore when the landowner notified our onsite personnel that there was mud in the basement,” he said. McHale said workers immediately implemented a contingency plan to deal with the problem and to accommodate the homeowners. “The bottom line is we are going to take care of these people,” he said. “We will identify temporary living quarters and make sure their needs are met.” McHale said company officials are working to determine what went wrong. … He said a 200-foot offset existed between the home and the drilling site.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said 6,000 gallons of water and drilling fluid infiltrated the Wieczorkowski home through an uncased well under the house. “We are not certain how the drilling mud traveled from the drilling site to the well,” he said. [Emphasis added]

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