WSAZ Investigates | Nonprofit arrives to test leaking orphaned wells

Published: Feb. 12, 2023 at 10:54 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - On Thursday, a contractor was working to conduct plugging operations on a natural gas well leaking in a Charleston neighborhood, according to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protections.

For more than a year, David Bentley said he’s been trying to get orphaned wells near Crouch Hollow Road in Charleston tested.

Bentley was suffering health issues, as a result of one of the leaks found in December 2021 to be dispersing a toxic chemical into his neighborhood.

The DEP said that the leak was patched last year.

The other they said, has been leaking natural gas ever since, as the DEP awaited funding to patch it.

They said the department only had funding at the time to patch one or two orphaned wells a year.

“I have struggled and struggled with my state agencies, my federal agencies trying to get testing conducted on what’s going on out here, to try to get some answers,” he said.

The DEP confirmed to us Thursday that a contractor was out plugging the remaining well and said the leak would be stopped in 24 hours.

Friday, WSAZ reached out to the WV DEP to find out if the leak was stopped.

A spokesperson for WV DEP said it was expected to be finished that day, but the agency has since not confirmed that it was fixed.

On Sunday, the Well Done Foundation met with Bentley to test orphaned wells in the area.

The nonprofit foundation works to locate and plug abandoned wells.

On their first day on-site, Curtis Shuck, Chairman of the Well Done foundation, said is about creating relationships with the landowners and identifying as many orphaned wells in the area.

Shuck showed WSAZ two wells on Sunday.

The one WVDEP said is leaking natural gas, and another well about a mile away.

“We’re picking up high concentrations of explosive gas,” he said pointing to a well that set of his testing device. “Typically has a mixture of everything from methane to pentane to hexane to you name it.”

A WVDEP spokesperson tells, “it is not aware of any issues with the remaining wells in the area, nor has it received any complaints on these wells.”

However, the two wells Shuck showed us Sunday set off his testing device.

“The fact that the wells are leaking is, you know, sort of bumps up the sense of urgency,” he said.

The Well Done Foundation is collecting samples of the gases in bags to be tested.

Shuck said test results will take about a week to determine the gas compounds.

“We’ll start working with the state of West Virginia in partnership to figure out a way to help fund these wells and get them plugged,” he said.

Shuck said the nonprofit plans to explore more than 250 acres in the area looking for additional wells.