Pocahontas Commissioners Hear Concerns Over Natural Gas Storage Well Safety

At their February 2nd Meeting, the Pocahontas County Commissioners heard Environmental Activist Beth Little express concerns over the safety of natural gas storage wells located in the Northern part of the County. Her concerns were fueled by news of a large and destructive leak in the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Los Angeles, which is run by the Southern California Gas Company. Beth’s daughter lives close to this gas leak.

Beth is concerned that the storage wells here, like most natural gas infrastructure, is 50-60 years old and subject to aging problems. She says that there have been some explosions in the lines leading to and from these storage areas in the western part of this state. Beth is worried about what the California gas leak might foretell for the storage wells here. Beth.

“They’re calling it comparable to the BP spill in the Gulf in terms of gas” said Beth. “And they don’t know how long it will be before they can stop it. I’ve been trying to find out more about here in West Virginia about the gas wells in this field. There is a friend of mine who does a lot of gas investigation. He said that Columbia (Gas Co.) is pretty good about maintaining their stuff. The biggest question is the casing and the cement job. So this is just information for you guys to know.”

Robert Orndorff, John Love and Ben Hardesty from Dominion as well as a representative from Columbia Gas were also at the meeting. They explained that the natural gas wells in WV have their well casings reinforced with concrete from the well head to the bottom of the well, and the pressures are constantly monitored. In addition the wells are regularly inspected visually, by flyovers and have a robotic device run down each casing to inspect the integrity of the well casing from the inside. All of the natural gas storage wells here in Pocahontas County are run by Columbia Gas. Dominion runs some storage wells in the western part of the state, but not in Pocahontas County.

In other actions, the Commissioners authorized the County Prosecutor’s Office to cancel their current lease for their office copier and to sign a lease with a new company, Hart Office Solutions, which not only will pay off the remaining year on the existing lease, but will save the County $126.00 each month plus $900.00 per year in maintenance charges over the existing lease.

John Simmons from the County Senior Citizens presented their annual update to the Commission. Simmons stated that although funding has been very tight, in 2015 they served 13,032 meals at the Senior Centers and 19,296 meals via Meals on Wheels. The Meals on Wheels vans drove 123, 876 miles delivering meals, with three vans based in Marlinton and 3 vans and a car at Green Bank. They employed 34 employees, 17 of whom are Home Makers. 8 of their employees are full time and the remaining are part time. Simmons also mentioned that since January 1st of this year they have been working with the Town of Marlinton to transport seniors to the grocery store along U.S. 219, and will extend this program for at least another month.

The Commissioners appointed Dave Dragan to a six year unexpired term on the County Public Service District’s Board.

The Commission authorized the County Parks and Recreation to use $2,200 of the money given to them by the Commission last year for the purpose of building a skate park to instead use those funds to purchase a new treadmill for the Wellness Center instead, since they do not have nearly enough money to build the skate park yet, but have long lines waiting to use the treadmills presently at the Wellness Center. They plan to still eventually go forward with the skate Park.

They donated $4,800 to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation to help replace leaking windows on the north side and rear of the birthplace house.

The Commission also approved entering into an agreement with West Virginia Interactive to allow taxpayers to pay their bills using credit cards. This would also apply to other County agencies collecting funds from citizens.

They approved emergency absentee voting procedures for the upcoming primary elections in May. This is routinely required to be done before every election.

They heard from Judge Rowe and employees of the Greenbrier Community Corrections Day Report Center about possibly severing the ties between the Pocahontas Day Report Center and the Randolph County Day report Center, and partnering with the Greenbrier County Day Report Center. The Commissioners asked their Counsel Bob Martin to attempt to work out a Memorandum of Understanding with the Greenbrier County program and to present it to the Commission at their next meeting for consideration.

The meeting ended with a closed session with their Counsel regarding pending litigation.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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