Sustained Outrage

Report assesses gas well proximity to communities

Natural Gas, fracking


There’s a new report out today from Downstream Strategies in Morgantown that outlines how Marcellus Shale gas production has become more common near “places essential for everyday life” in West Virginia. The report, also compiled by SkyTruth and San Francisco State University, says this proximity increases the potential for human exposure to toxic chemicals.

The report, “In Everyone’s Backyard: Assessing Proximity of Fracking to Communities At-Risk in West Virginia’s Marcellus Shale,” says that more than 7,000 homes were found to be located less than one-half mile from wellpads in 2014. From the press release:

As fracking progressed in West Virginia, wellpads have also encroached on schools. By 2014, seven schools had at least one wellpad within one-half mile, and 36 schools had at least one well located within one mile.

Wellpads must be more than 1,000 feet from public drinking water intakes; however, there are no restrictions on the construction of wellpads within drinking water protection areas upstream from intakes. In 2014, hundreds of wellpads and impoundments were in these protection areas.

Since 2007, more and more wellpads and impoundments have also been built in or near public lands and near health care facilities.

A systematic, screening-level evaluation of the toxicity of chemicals self-reported by operators in West Virginia revealed that several hazardous substances have been used to frack wells near schools and immediately upstream from surface public drinking water intakes.

West Virginia State Code does not require setbacks between Marcellus Shale development and several types of sensitive areas assessed in this report. Setback distances for schools, health care facilities, and public lands—and restrictions in zones of critical concern and zones of peripheral concern above drinking water intakes—would help protect vulnerable populations and recreational opportunities as fracking development continues.