The office now has 49 staff positions, up from 32. Agency officials have filled 41 of the 49 positions, and the eight vacancies are evenly split between enforcement and permitting functions, Martin said.
"We've been, I think, fairly successful," Martin said. "We've managed to hire folks, and we've gotten good people."
Under the law, passed during a special session in December 2011 and signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the DEP was required to complete a study of oil and gas wastewater impoundments by Jan. 1.
The pits and impoundments report from WVU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering was submitted to the DEP in mid-December.
In January, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said work on the impoundment study was complete, but that its submission to the Legislature was delayed because of formatting problems. Huffman also said WVU researchers included some recommendations about the handling of gas-drilling wastewater that went beyond what they were actually asked by the DEP to do.
Two other documents from WVU were provided to the DEP in February, and the DEP released the material publicly last week.
A separate study on noise, light and dust from drilling operations was to be provided to the Legislature by Dec. 31, 2012, but is still not finished. A third study, examining possible air pollution from oil and gas operations, is due July 1.
In their push for more natural gas, drilling operators in West Virginia's Marcellus Shale region are increasingly using a process called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break apart rock and release the gas. Operators also are using a process that involves drilling down and then turning horizontally to reach broader stretches of gas reserves.
Water from these processes, along with any "flowback" that returns to the surface, is frequently stored in large, centralized pits and impoundments at or near well locations. Oil and gas operators frequently re-use this water several times, but eventually the wastewater has to be disposed of. In West Virginia, that is typically done by injection into other underground wells.
In a four-page summary of the impoundments review, the DEP reported that, "based on sample results of both the material held in the structures and the groundwater below them, the study showed that no leakage was detected from the examined structures."
The WVU report itself said, "There was no evidence of significant leakage of flowbacks from the impoundments.
"While the monitoring wells detected no contaminants, it is not clear that the monitoring interval of 146 days was sufficient to capture any leakage from the impoundments," the WVU report said. "A longer sampling period is suggested with, perhaps, aquifer permeability testing."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.