The Spill at Buckeye Creek


Evening of 24 August (Monday) -- The spill is discovered by Louanne Fatora's son when he goes to fish in Buckeye Creek. This was about 1 or 2 miles above where Buckeye Creek joins Middle Island Creek at Smithburg.

Louanne later wrote the "oil had been pooling," was red or orange and created a film like Crisco on the surface of the creek 1 to 2 inches thick. The contamination covered a three mile stretch of the creek.

"When I asked when it would be OK for my children to swim and fish in the water, I was told it was 'just oil' and hadn't killed any fish and was OK to be in."

Louanne Fatora is the source for the photographs in this report about the spill at Buckeye Creek.

Morning of 25 August (Tuesday) -- The spill is reported to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection by Louanne Fatora. Office of Oil and Gas inspector David Scranage arrives and initiates remediation. Booms were set across the creek at several points (at least 3). A vac truck is used to suck up material in the creek. The inspector's report mentions first and second containment sites and described the material as "oil." The operator of a nearby recently drilled gas well is performing remediation. Inspector Campbell's report states that Inspectors Scranage and Cowan "had tracked material back to wellsite 017-5814."

26 August (Wednesday) -- Vac truck continues sucking up material at second site.

27 August (Thursday) -- According to the inspector's report, the residual part of the cleanup is being done. An underflow dam is set up below first containment area. Ryan Environmental (working for operator) collects samples according to inspector's report. [According to the lab report, samples were collected on 28 August and delivered to the lab on 2 September.]

28 August (Friday) -- Underflow dam is in place.

29 August (Saturday) -- Additional work crew members are brought in by the operator. Sphag-sorb is being used to absorb oil on water surface.

31 August (Monday) -- According to the inspector's report, the operator's work crew had made it one mile from the source of the spill, still about a half mile from the upper containment structure.

2 September (Wednesday) -- Sphag-sorb had been vacuumed up in upper containment area and crew moved into lower area. According to the inspector's report there was "little visible sign of contamination" in upper area.

Downstream Strategies, working for Louanne Fatora, conducted a study and collected samples. Their report mentions seeing small fish swimming in creek.

3 September (Thursday) -- The work crew was working in the second area, near US 50 east.

9 September (Wednesday) -- Operator cited for violation and well posted. The violation was for allowing "pollutants or the effluent therefrom, produced by or emanating from any point source, to flow into the water of this state." The well's API number is 47-017-05814.

10 September (Thursday) -- The inspector returns to the spill and finds it to be a "successful cleanup." The underflow dam is removed. According to the inspector the crew was to monitor booms daily and continue to vac trouble spots. The inspector expected that rainfall would clear the creek.

The inspector's report states that 50-70 barrels of material was vacuumed from the creek (2100-2940 gallons) and that 9 industrial sized bags of leaves and debris were also collected.

Besides inspector Scranage, other Office of Oil and Gas personnel visited the spill: inspectors David Cowan, David Gilbert, and Edward Gainer and reclamation specialist Richard Campbell.

Mid-September -- Used booms that had been left on the banks of the creek were finally removed.

2 October -- Louanne Fatora returned to the site of the spill and took additional photos. Small minnows were seen in one location, no fish rising or water insects were observed.

Patches of the silvery sheen were still visible on the creek's surface.

Patches of a clear gel were also in the water.

When a finger was placed in the gel and removed, the gel looked like this.

Mid-October -- A reporter for The Exponent Telegram -- Clarksburg -- visited the creek and noted: "While most of the orange contaminate is now gone from the area, isolated pools remain in pockets along the embankment."

The reporter also noted, "No fish or any aquatic wildlife was observed in the area. A metallic smell still lingers in places." ["Answers Few in Fraccing Fluid Spill," by Billy Wolfe, The Exponent Telegram, 23 October 2009.]

Early November -- Officials of the town of West Union (about 5 miles downstream from where many of the photographs were taken), whose municipal water supply is surface water fed by Buckeye Creek, first learn about the spill from The Exponent Telegram story and express their concern to state agencies.

A story by Pam Kasey ("Update: Doddridge County Spill Raises Questions about Reporting") on the WTRF news website (9 November 2009), discusses the problems with the notification system for when the state receives a report about a spill and passes that information on to other agencies. West Union's drinking water treatment plant started showing high levels of manganese in mid-July (about 1.6 mg/l, about four times higher than usual) and these high levels have continued through October. This seems to indicate that the spill occurred in mid-July, about 45 days before it was reported by Louanne Fatora.

Early December -- A reporter for The Exponent Telegram -- Clarksburg -- states that "DEP Oil and Gas Chief James Martin said the agency is still investigating the cause of the spill and what exactly it contains. When asked when they will make those determinations, he said, 'We’re hoping soon.' " ["Doddridge Officials Wait for Answers" by Leann Ray, The Exponent Telegram, 7 December 2009.]


Go to the next page -- Laboratory Tests.


The Spill at Buckeye Creek

Photos, part 1
Photos, part 2
Photos, part 3
Photos, part 4
Laboratory Tests
The Office of Oil and Gas Final Report

Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.

Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
These wells are used either for the disposal of oil and gas liquid waste or for the enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.

Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.

YouTube Videos
Select videos from the Gas Well Study YouTube channel.

What Happened at Fernow
An investigation into what caused the vegetation death in the land application area after landspraying hydraulic fracture flowback waste.

The Spill at Buckeye Creek
An investigation into a spill from a Marcellus well site into Buckeye Creek in Doddridge county.