The Antero-Clearwater facility has been temporarily idled while the company considers its “cost effectiveness.” In public statements the company has said that the closure is not permanent but only while it evaluates the facility. The facility is located near the Doddridge/Richie County line on Route 50 about midway between Clarksburg and Parkersburg, near West Union, WV.
The big picture problem
The role of water in fracking cannot be overstated. To do it takes millions of gallons of fresh water. The water comes from streams and wells and public water supplies as well as water that has been used at other wells. Then the companies mix in chemicals to facilitate the drilling and fracturing of rock deep in the earth. Then the water comes back up out of the ground, bringing with it all the chemicals added as well as whatever pollutants it picked up in the ground.
The water that comes out of the wells is way too polluted to dump in streams. The industry must find a way to dispose of it.
The Antero Clearwater solution
The Antero Clearwater facility is one attempt to solve this problem. It is 486 acre site meant to house a frack and processed water treatment plant and solid waste/salt residue landfill that is designed to accommodate some 2,000 tons/day of waste salt for a possible 26 years, and hold 200 tons/day of TENORM (technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material) until it can be shipped to appropriate waste facilities out west. It covers what were once 5 miles of headwater streams and 11 wetland areas.
As the facility name implies, the multilayered treatment system is meant to receive and treat millions of gallons of gas drilling wastewater from the various Marcellus shale gas wells from hither and yon and render that toxic goop into water ‘clear’ enough to be trucked to and reused for further fracking at well sites in the area.
The residue from the treatment process is mainly salt – not your ordinary table salt, though reference has been made for the eventual possibility that future beneficial uses haven’t been ruled out – and other questionable solids that will contain concentrated NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material) that has been sucked out of the depths of the earth along with various other constituents.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s History with the Project
In late 2017 the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy joined West Virginia Rivers Coalition and local residents in an appeal of the permit before the Environmental Quality Board The permit appeal was based on lack of evaluation and monitoring for the potential for radioactivity and other harmful pollutants from waste disposed at this site.
The appeal was later settled with an agreement which modifies the landfill permit to include new enforceable monitoring requirements.
What has happened now
The facility is temporarily idle. While companies must get rid of the water somehow, this type of facility is not the only option. Injecting used water into a disposal well or reusing water in depletion operations are other industry alternatives. According to its public statements, the company wants to stop, take a breath, and decide which of the alternatives is cheaper.
The company insists that the idling is not permanent