Toxic gas leak concerns community

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found two natural gas leaks in the Charleston area, including highly toxic chemicals flowing into a neighborhood.

The hydrogen sulfide (H2S) leak was found along with a natural gas leak Monday near Crouch Hollow, according to DEP acting communications director Terry Fletcher. DEP could not confirm how long any of the wells had been leaking before neighbors reported health concerns from the gas exposure.

David Bentley said he has been dealing with medical problems for months from exposure to the gas, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, foaming urine and not being able to sleep. Bentley’s entire body has also been covered in a rash that he says looks more like a chemical burn.

“It’s about my health,” Bentley said. “I don’t know how much time I have left. I mean, seriously, I am as thin as a frail man. I broke everything, dry, covered in leather, I can’t think, I can’t sleep. From what I understand I have a 50/50 chance of fighting this. That’s if someone can come out here and find out what’s going on. “

Bentley said it found the leak while building a hunting blind near the H2S tank. As a former firefighter, he used a gas meter to determine that it was unsafe and to leave the area. However, his dogs and family were already exposed and they have also been dealing with major health issues.

Fletcher said DEP could not comment on the health risks associated with exposure to these chemicals and instead referred WSAZ to federal safety regulators for information on the hazards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that H2S is extremely flammable and highly toxic even in low concentrations.

“Effects range from mild, headaches or eye irritation, to very severe, unconsciousness and death,” according to OSHA.

Resident Diana Brown said she knew something was wrong when she entered the hole and began to smell gas in the air. She is currently dealing with a sore throat, cough and loss of voice from breathing the gas, and is concerned for the older people who live in the area and have been struggling due to the leak.

Fletcher said the natural gas well is abandoned and DEP will need to repair the leak. The H2S well is still active and owned by a gas company that was called to the area on Monday but was unable to make the necessary repairs.

Kanawha County Emergency Management Director CW Sigman said the H2S leak was stopped with a temporary fix as the company works to find a permanent fix.

Streams in the hollow flow into the Elk River. West Virginia American Water said it has no water supply concerns related to this gas leak.

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