The following correspondence comes to FracTracker from a community member in West Virginia. It highlights in a very personal way the day-to-day nuisances of living with intense drilling activity nearby.
This Is Home
The 170-plus acre parcel of land where we live and farm has been in our family for over 50 years. I have worked on our road that comes into our property for 40 of those years. I know what the road should look like and have put a lot of personal work into maintaining it over the years (like most folks do who live on many of these smaller roads, even though they are a legal State right-of-way). We have been experiencing a lot of problems here due to the exploration and production of the natural gas resources. We would like to see major improvement really soon.
In all my years I have never seen this amount of dust or this amount of mud and slop after a small rainfall, of all of the loose gravel that makes traction near impossible. And I have never before been blocked and delayed or stopped on my road, and my wife has never been as upset, concerned and fearful and agitated about driving down our lane because of all the big trucks and rude drivers.
I have tried to work with the gas companies and their subcontractors for some years. My Mom and I have a separate property nearby where another well pad is located. I have recently allowed a new gas pipeline to be put through my farmland. I have tried to be patient and tolerant and easy going for the past three years. However, like some neighbors on nearby roads have found out, that doesn’t always work. Some of the hundreds of drivers and employees are courteous, polite, and respectful and yield the road when we are traveling. Some others are downright rude and disrespectful. They must not live around here, and it is obvious they do not care at all about the local residents.
Dirt and Mud
We will give you some examples of the problems from our viewpoint. Let’s start with dirt, mud, and dust since those have been an on-going problem since the pipeline guys started here over 6 months ago. See photos right.
Surely they knew that it was likely to happen and they knew it did happen. They left the mud on our road. The construction employees drove by and watched a neighbor pick up and carry the mud to the side of the road.
This was not a one-time occurrence. This has happened every time this summer when we had rain. Our lane has been treated like it was a private lease road. So far it seems that our WV DOH (West Virginia Division of Highways) has been ineffective in improving the situation.
For the most part when companies are moving dirt they seem to do a good job. All we ask is that they keep their mud on their property and off our road.
I have never before seen big mud blobs like the one to the right on our road. It is unnecessary, uncalled for and avoidable. Seeing these frequently is a visible sign that at hardly any of the industry cares about the neighbors near here. I was given some of the Engineering Plans for the well pad and its access road. It spells out that the contractor is responsible to never drag mud out onto the public road. And what to do if it happens.
I recently reviewed some well pad construction plans. To paraphrase, the plans say don’t make a mess in public, but if and when you do clean up after yourself. Sounds like stuff that was covered in Kindergarten, doesn’t it? It promotes good policy and it keeps peace in the neighborhood.
The next example of another problem that we should not have to live with, occurs when all of that mud on our road dries out. DUST, as can be seen in the next three pictures, is a very common occurrence.
Guests were visiting here recently and had to follow a dust storm down the road. The trucker probable never saw her car. He probably could not see anything behind him.
Broken Phone Lines
Another problem that has happened over and over has been has been all the times that contractors have broken our phone line. It seemed that no one ever thought to call the 800 phone number to have utilities marked. In addition, after they were marked, no one paid any attention to where the flags were. This is a very basic task, but it seems to be beyond what some of the contractors could figure out and do. See photos below. Note the broken and temporary splice in my phone line that looks like a dozer operator did it. The phone line was then lying on the top of the gravel road.
The photos below show our phone line after it was again dug up and broken last week. Even with the phone company markers to tell the operators exactly where the line was, they dug into it. Someone is not paying attention.
By the way, we do not own or use a cell phone, so being able to depend on a working landline is important to us. We could understand this incident happening one time, but not more often than that.
Construction Equipment on Public Roadway
We appreciate that a few weeks ago the construction contractor put some small gravel on the top part of the roadway near the well pad entrance. However we are not sure how long that gravel will last because of all the dirt that has been dropped on it, but mainly because of all the heavy construction equipment that has been running on the public road every day.
The gravel is being pulverized daily and contributes to the dust problem. Also a large pile of loose gravel and big rock is now spread out on the roadway at the sharp right, uphill turn past the compressor station entrance. This makes it difficult for smaller vehicles to get any traction. Well pad guys all drive bigger 4-wheel drive trucks, so it doesn’t seem to matter to them. But my family drives smaller cars.
A neighbor was again walking the road last week picking up clumps of mud and large rock to get them off the road.
Also, we have been told that all this construction equipment is not supposed to be using the state right-of-way anyway, at any time. Are these off road construction pieces of equipment insured, and registered and licensed to be used on a public roadway?
Another frequent problem is having our roads blocked many times causing many delays.
On Election Day my wife went to get my mom to take her to vote and had to wait on yet another truck blocking the road. These truckers seem to always think they always have the right of way, the right to block our roads, and the right to stop residential traffic at any time for their convenience. Last week a flagger stopped me just to allow construction employees to exit the well pad. Good neighbors would not do that. The truck to the right had the road completely closed for over an hour, with a track hoe behind it being used to unload the pipe. There is enough land around here to get these trucks off our road when unloading them. Even our local loggers know to do that.
Being a Better Neighbor
All of these problems are nothing new to other residents here in Wetzel County. My friends in the Silver Hill area have complained about the same type of problems for years, and eventually the operator there finally figured out how to be a better neighbor.
With all the problems in many other areas by multiple companies, one would think that by now the gas drillers and all their many subcontractors would have come up with a set of what works and what doesn’t. I think they are called best practices. We should not have to continually keep doing the same inconsiderate things all over again at each well pad site in every area. It is possible to learn from mistakes made elsewhere. We should be looking for constant improvements in our operations, as these issues are more than an inconvenience.
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