Powhatan Point Residents Remain Displaced As Well Pad Leak Continues

POWHATAN POINT — A break in the weather Sunday allowed a well control team to gain access to a leaking natural gas drilling pad — the first step toward bringing the leak under control.

XTO Energy spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the explosion that occurred at the Schnegg pad on Cats Run Road on Thursday created a lot of debris that must be removed in order to create a safe work zone for the well control team. Heavy rain that eventually led to flooding across the region was falling Thursday around the time of the incident. Additional precipitation, including some snowfall over the weekend, slowed efforts to get the well control crew on site.

Matusic also said a crane and some trucks that had been on the pad were damaged in the explosion, leaving parts and pieces cluttering the area. She said bulldozers and excavators will be used to remove the debris before work to cap the well begins.

“These guys are used to working in very dangerous conditions,” she said, noting that means the Cudd Energy Services team XTO hired to perform the work will proceed with an abundance of caution. “It will take at least a day to clear the debris.”

Matusic added that the Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service all have representatives working in the area of the pad. They are monitoring air and water quality around the site and, so far, she said they have not found levels of methane or other contaminants that would be harmful to humans or animals. She believes these officials are monitoring the water in both Cats Run and nearby Captina Creek.

Residents who were evacuated from within a 1-mile radius of the site still are not being permitted to return to their homes. XTO is paying to house those individuals at hotels in Moundsville, Wheeling and St. Clairsville. The families also will be reimbursed for expenses they incur while away from home, such as purchasing toiletries.

“We want to get them back in their homes as soon as possible,” Matusic noted.

No one was injured during the Thursday explosion, which Matusic said occurred while workers were in the middle of the completion phase of work on the well. That means the site already had been drilled and fracked and was being prepared for production. Last week, officials said this was the fourth well being developed on the Schnegg pad.