David McMahon, a Charleston lawyer who has long represented surface landowner interests, said dealing with drilling pit wastes that companies leave on their property is a complaint he hears frequently.
"We think leaving even the most benign thing in the ground is more than they should be allowed to do," McMahon said Wednesday. "They can haul it off, and take it to a landfill."
In the Rine case, Chesapeake in August 2009 graded five to 10 acres of the property and installed gas wells and related facilities to extract natural gas it owned beneath the land. Court records say the company also dug a large waste pond for disposal of waste materials from its fracking operation and its drilling.
"The waste pond was large and was lined on the bottom and sides with a black material," the Rines said in their lawsuit. "Chesapeake deposited foreign substances into the pond and the waste eventually filled the pond."
Sometime in mid-2010, the lawsuit says, Chesapeake began new work at the pond. The company brought in material by truck and dumped it into the pond, the suit says. It dug a new, unlined hole adjacent to the lined pond.
"Chesapeake then used heavy equipment to rupture and tear the earth and lining surrounding the waste pond," the suit says. "The lining was completely breached, allowing an unknown waste liquid to run over bare ground and into the newly dug hole.
"After the disposal of liquids into the unlined hole, a thicker material remained in the pond with the ripped liner," the suit says. "Chesapeake placed the lining material over the top of the remnant waste, then covered the entire pond and its remaining contents with soil."
About three weeks ago, the slip appeared at the edge of Chesapeake's well pad. The Rines gave the company permission to repair the slip, but instructed Chesapeake not to take any further actions until a more detailed review could be conducted. But, they said, Chesapeake began hauling away materials anyway, mixing wastes from the pit with uncontaminated soil from their yard. Chesapeake has already hauled away more than 400 trucks of materials, and has declined to tell the Rines where it was being taken, court records allege.
"Chesapeake's claim that it is engaged in slip repair is a ruse," the Rines' lawyers allege in court filings. "Removal of the black waste is simply an ill-considered attempt to mitigate the Rines' property damages, without determining the waste contents or the contamination footprint and without implementing the necessary handling, disposal and remediation.
"Chesapeake has essentially taken over the Rine property and refuses to leave, claiming that it is accountable to no one except itself."
Stamp has not ruled on the larger issues in the case, but the judge did block Chesapeake from removing more materials from the site, and set a hearing for next week to consider more evidence and arguments.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.