Company Should Be Paying for Water

Southwestern Energy (SWN) was scheduled to start stealing water from Middle Wheeling Creek in December. According to a company spokesman, the water will be pumped out from Middle Wheeling Creek at Dallas Pike, before it reaches the Division of Natural Resources Middle Creek Reservoir. Southwest Energy will pump at least 2 million gallons, from Middle Wheeling Creek, to fill an impoundment which is used to fill trucks that carry our water over to their fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

Why do I call it stealing? Because everyone else using our county’s water is required to safely treat and return water used from our watershed to the watershed. Everyone else either pays the city or a public service district for this, or is required to recycle the water they take from a well or spring through an approved septic system.

Yet, each time SWN fills the impoundment, it takes about 2 million gallons and they don’t pay any water bill … not to the Division of Natural Resources, not to the Public Service District who bills the residents who live on the creek, not to Ohio County for the use of its watershed. SWN is not recycling it back into our watershed. They use it to mix hydraulic fracturing solutions and render it unsuitable for reentry into any aquifer or waterway.

According to the Ohio County Public Service District, residents who live where SWN is taking the water out of the creek pay $3.83 per 1,000 gallons for their water. If SWN was simply paying the rate that the Public Service District charges all of its water customers for water used and returned to the watershed, they would be paying over $7,000 for the 2 million gallons they take each time they fill the impoundment. (Take a look at your water bill.) Add to that charges for not returning the water to our watershed. Add to that the loss of use within the water cycle that sustains the fish in the reservoir and indeed, all life. So, perhaps the charge should be calculated as the cost of this water loss over a 100-year period. What about a dumping fee for our water rendered hazardous waste and left behind in the layers beneath the aquifers either in West Virginia or Pennsylvania? The real cost to Ohio County is probably at least $700,000 for each 2 million gallons of water SWN takes from our Middle Wheeling Creek for free. Who is minding the store?

Blanche F. Rybeck