West Virginia allows the disposal of liquid pit wastes for vertical wells by landspraying them over nonproductive land. The alternative is to transport the waste for disposal at a Underground Injection Control Class 2 well. The criteria that operators must use for landspraying is set forth in the General Water Pollution Control Permit. The permit reached its current form back in 1988 and the version used when waste was land applied at Fernow was later revised in 2016.

The liquid waste in the pit that is landsprayed is a mixture of water, chemical additives used in drilling and fracturing (West Virginia allows the landspraying of fracturing chemicals and flowback), and substances brought up from underground during drilling. Pages in this section of the website offer a background into what the additives used for drilling are, types of contaminants found in pits, the state's 1980s rationale when it set up the permit, and an examination of the 2008 landspraying debacle at Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia.

A page about drilling additives with lots of links.

A table showing a selection of contaminants found in various kinds of waste in Pennsylvania.

Transcription from the 1985 Fact Sheet which gives the state's rationale and program for managing pit waste by landspraying.

We have an Excel file with a SAR calculator, a chloride load calculator and a spreadsheet showing some of the contaminants found in 5 drill waste pits in West Virginia in the 1980s. The spreadsheet is from Table C of the 1985 Fact Sheet prepared by the state.

Testing usually shows that chloride is the chemical that has the highest concentration in pit waste. We have a page about chloride that describes its environmental effects.

What Happened at Fernow
We created a group of posts on our Sootypaws blog in spring 2009 about the landspraying event at the Fernow Experimental Forest where landspraying in 2008 killed undergrowth and small trees. The posts dealt with a number of issues and are presented here in revised form.

We believe the events at Fernow point to the shortcomings of the current waste management plan in West Virginia. There was no consideration of chloride load (or other type of salinity load), no consideration of sodium load (as expressed by SAR or other means), no mechanism to halt the landspraying process when things go bad, and letting operators do their own testing just makes things worse.

Our description of what happened at Fernow and what we believe was the cause are on these pages: Fernow Experimental Forest, The Discharge Monitoring Report, Chloride Load, SAR, Liming the Pit, A Short History of Fracturing and Fracturing Chemicals, What Happened at Fernow, and, finally, Recommendations and Sources.

Scientists at the Fernow Experimental Forest have had reports and articles published dealing with the effects of drilling and land application and other issues related to drilling.


What Happened at Fernow

Fernow Experimental Forest
Discharge Monitoring Report
Chloride Load
Liming the Pit
A Short History of Fracturing
Fracturing Chemicals
What Happened at Fernow
Recommendations & Sources

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