Nor is there currently an effective way to trace the movement of slurry once it's injected into the worked-out mines where it hypothetically stays put. Current regulations fail to fully describe the process or address real-time monitoring, the report says, "so opportunities for early detection of quality assurance problems are not assured.''
If underground injection is to continue, the scientists conclude, "it deserves routine quality control.''
A legislative subcommittee is set to hear a presentation on the report Monday in Charleston and will hold the third of a series of hearings on slurry.
Kessler argued a temporary moratorium on new injection sites -- imposed by the DEP more than a year ago -- should be made permanent while legislators figure out how to provide public health officials more answers.
"If they need data and ongoing monitoring, we're going to legislatively require ongoing monitoring,'' he said. "I just am at a loss to understand how on earth it could be that difficult to run tests on known sites.''
It's unclear what the health department might recommend to develop more data. A spokeswoman for the DHHR said the agency will await direction from the Legislature.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said he had given the summaries and conclusions only a cursory reading but was open to whatever recommendations the scientists, health officials and legislators make.
The report does not appear to offer any evidence to "move me either way'' on outlawing underground injection, Huffman said, but he lacks the legal authority to do so anyway.
If legislators ban underground injection, he said, "then that's the law we'll enforce.''
In the meantime, Huffman said the temporary moratorium will remain in place and no new permits will be approved.
The report appears to identify "areas we need to shore up in our regulatory program, and we kind of expected that,'' Huffman said. But he added that he's uncertain how filling data gaps would help scientists draw any better conclusions about health risks.