The Spill at Buckeye Creek


Some time in the summer of 2009 there was a spill of an unknown substance into Buckeye Creek east of Smithburg in Doddridge County, West Virginia. The spill was first noticed on the evening of 24 August and a complaint was called into the state's Department of Environmental Protection on 25 August.

The Office of Oil and Gas inspector's report doesn't indicate the source of the spill or characterize the spill as anything other than "oil" or "contaminate." The Office in early September posted a Notice of Violation against a drilling company of a recently drilled well. The NOV doesn't characterize the spill or state its source.

The Office of Oil and Gas has stated that the spill was fracture flowback and that it had been traced to a particular well site.

These pages will illustrate the spill, its effects on wildlife, and the remediation effort by the drilling company. Laboratory test results will be examined and we'll provide a timeline of events. If enough information becomes available, we'll characterize the spill and discuss what could be done to prevent another.

The well found in violation is 47-017-05814. Photographs taken before the spill was noticed and after the spill remediation began show several important features.

This photograph was taken on 26 August. The wellhead is not visible but the large condensate storage tank to the west of the production equipment is. To get an idea of the size of the large pit, to the right of the red tank is a piece of earthmoving equipment for comparison.

The pit is constructed extremely close to Buckeye Creek and there is a pump between the creek and the pit, shown here.

There are no restrictions in West Virginia about how close a well, pit or land application area can be to surface water.

The creek's banks constantly change and at this location are crumbling.

This photo was taken on 2 September and shows that the pump is gone and that a dike has been created around the large condensate storage tank.

Fluid is still in the pit.

The large pit shown in the photographs is a freshwater impoundment. A smaller drilling waste pit existed at this site until it was closed and reclaimed on or about 1 August 2009. The location of the smaller pit was probably in the freshly graded portion of the well site.

It's possible that the spill occurred as early as July 2009. The town of West Union, downstream, experienced an unexplained upset in their drinking water system in July. West Union's municipal water supply is Middle Island Creek, of which Buckeye Creek is a major tributary.

Information about chloride is available on this website and publications about TPH from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry can be downloaded (fact sheet and public health statement -- which is chapter 1 of the Toxicological Profile).

Aspects of the spill we'll note in the section on laboratory testing are the presence of elevated chloride (but not grossly inflated concentrations) and, in the most contaminated area of the creek high concentrations of upper ranges of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH). Volatiles such as benzene and toluene were not detected by any laboratory tests (above their minimum detection limit). Testing for heavy metals was not done, nor was testing for contamination of the creek's sediments.

The information we have here on the spill at Buckeye Creek is spread across several pages. After this background page there are four pages of photographs showing the spill, remediation and effects on wildlife. Following the photographs is a page providing a timeline. There is a page discussing laboratory testing and a final page offering conclusions. A link to the next page is found toward the bottom of each page and there are also links to each of the pages in this section in the sidebar and at the bottom.

Go to the first page of photographs.


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.

The Details

Plunger Lift Technology on Gas Wells
Fluids Brought to the Surface during Production
Plugging a Well
How To Read a Lab Report
Information the Completion Report Provides
Casing and Cementing