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WV Looks To Manage Fracking Water

Reported by: Send eMail Kera Mashek
Videographer: Shelby Spradling
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Nov. 19, 2013 10:24 PM EST
Updated: Nov. 19, 2013 10:52 PM EST

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Frackwater Management Discussion
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

West Virginia lawmakers are taking a closer look at water management for natural gas fracturing, commonly called fracking.

Some think fracking could be the next big thing to boost the state's economy, but the state water resource commission, meeting at the capital Tuesday, stressed it wants to make sure there are adequate protections in place so water used with drilling is safe.

Natural gas fracking activity is booming in pockets across the country, and now, West Virginia is reviewing a proposal from a company called Greenhunter, which is looking to build the state's first frackwater recycling and barge offloading facility near Wheeling.

Greenhunter officials declined an interview after their presentation to the state's water resource commission Tuesday. The commission says before Greenhunter, or any other similar businesses, go up in West Virginia, it wants to make sure the practice of treating and transporting material from such facilities is done without putting the public in danger.

"How do we leverage this natural resource we've been blessed with in order to attract companies to West Virginia, because we've got an abundance of it. And if we do proper management, we can bring those companies in that in other ares where they don't have water, we can offer it up in such a away that it's not conflicting with other groups and that the resource is available for all," said Sen. John R. Unger II (D), WV Water Resource Commission Chair.

Wheeling Jesuit University biology professor Dr. Ben Stout supports a frackwater recycling facility to help manage waste that comes from natural gas drilling, but is concerned about how the dangerous, toxic by-products of fracking will get to that facility using big trucks on our highways and barges on the Ohio River.

"If there were a spill in Wheeling it would affect communities all the way down to Cincinnati. So we can't jeopardize that. The Coast Guard's proposing barging regulations, but they haven't done any risk assessment, and I just think that's a really dangerous thing to do," Dr. Stout said.

The state says both sides are important to consider in the big picture of fracking's future in West Virginia, and it just wants to be responsible in setting out the appropriate regulations to encourage business, while also protecting the public and the environment.

"You can look at being conscious of the environment and protecting the environment, and particularly public health as it relates to the environment, as well as developing economic opportunities for the state," said Unger.

And state water resource commission is working on a water management plan which will be reviewed next month, as the first step in the process of allowing frackwater companies to develop here in West Virginia..



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