Water In Mines Could Be Used

WHEELING – The local region has many abandoned coal mines filled with water, and this water could be treated and used in the fracking process, West Virginia lawmakers heard Thursday.

Members of the West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary listened to presentations from representatives of Consol Energy Inc. and Rand Corp. during their meeting at West Virginia Independence Hall.

“Coal mine water in the Appalachian region is abundant, and at the same time a typical, single horizontal shale gas well in the Marcellus region requires 3 to 5 million gallons of water,” said Aimee E. Curtright, a physical scientist with the Rand Corp. in Pittsburgh. “Thousands of these wells are being drilled and fractured each year.

“Some energy and environmental experts and state lawmakers in Pennsylvania would like to make use of the mine-impaired water to displace the use of freshwater for hydraulic fracturing,” she added. “This could potentially turn a legacy environmental challenge into an opportunity to mitigate the environmental impact of a new generation of unconventional fossil fuels.”

John Owsiany, director of water systems and operations for Consol Energy, spoke of Consol’s new Northern West Virginia Water Treatment Facility. The $200 million plant is being constructed near Mannington, W.Va., and he said it is expected the plant will treat 5 million gallons of mine water daily.

Owsiany said fewer permits are required for operations utilizing treated mine water, as the treatment plants are already permitted and bonded. Therefore, the water already meets the standards supported by state regulatory agencies.

“The reuse and recycling of existing supplies meets sustainability criteria, and it is a benefit for industry and stakeholders,” he continued.

But Owsiany and Curtright both acknowledged many industries don’t want to purchase treated mine water because of the long-term liability concerns they have. They believe they could be held responsible for discharging mine drainage into the environment.

Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked them what legislation they wanted the Judiciary Committee to draft pertaining to the use of mine water. Owsiany replied that they hoped lawmakers would craft bills that emphasize the reuse of water.