Forest Service scientists said the hydrochloric acid could have caused the damage, or high chlorides in the drilling fluids could have been responsible.
"Clearly, a better knowledge of the chemical makeup of the drilling and hydrofracking fluids is needed in order to understand and predict possible impacts on the resources," the report said.
Also, the company disposed of some of its used drilling fluids by spraying them onto the land in the forest, a practice that is generally legal for wells in West Virginia, but is not permitted for Marcellus operations. Nearly 100,000 gallons of the fluids were sprayed onto two sites at the Fernow.
At one of the spraying sites, nearly 150 trees were killed and ground vegetation was destroyed. At this site, the damage got worse a year after the spraying.
Forest Service scientists found "substantial damage to roads" during development of the well site, and also documented increased runoff from the site, especially when silt fences installed by the company failed or were overtopped by runoff.
The report did not examine whether drilling fluids ended up in groundwater or streams in the area, or provide any detailed information about potential impacts on sensitive caves in the area or to the wildlife in the forest.
Report authors included at least three Forest Service scientists, including Schuler, who had warned about potential impacts of the drilling on the caves and the endangered bats that live in them.
"This case study identifies some expected and unexpected impacts, which might be used to predict environmental effects of similar developments," the report said. "Our experiences can help inform both public and private land managers as to the range of possible outcomes from the development."
@tag:Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.