MOUNDSVILLE - Frackers beware: the Public Service Commission of West Virginia is warning you to stop draining water from fire hydrants for use in natural gas drilling operations.
"It's just helter skelter out here," said George Lagos, general manager and chief operator for Marshall County Public Service District No. 4, which serves a large area of the county between Moundsville and Cameron. "They just stop wherever to get water."
Commission officials note they have received complaints from northern West Virginia about "truckers" - presumably working as subcontractors for drilling companies - allegedly taking water from fire hydrants without approval from local water utilities. Commission information states the truckers reportedly hauled the water for use at natural gas drilling and fracking sites.
No particular drilling company or subcontractor is mentioned, but companies operating in the area stretching from Hancock County in the north to Marion County in the south include Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Gastar Exploration, EQT Corp., Trans Energy, CNX Gas Corp., Magnum Hunter and Stone Energy Corp.
"These takings come at the expense of the local water utility and its customers. If enough of a revenue shortfall is created, the water utility customers will have to make up the expense through an increase in rates," the commission states.
Lagos said he knows subcontractors are taking water from hydrants in Marshall County.
"We have been trying to catch them," he said. "They want the water so they can spray it on the roads."
According to West Virginia Code, anyone who takes water without the knowledge of the owner and while attempting to evade payment can face misdemeanor charges. Penalties can range from a $2,000 fine to a full year jail sentence.
"If anyone sees someone out doing this we ask them to call us to report it," added Lagos, noting his office's phone number is 304-843-1234.
To report someone taking water from a fire hydrant, one could also call the commission office in Charleston at 304-340-0300.