VALLEY GROVE, W.Va. - Becky and John Wieczorkowski's Valley Grove home flooded and ripped apart Thursday morning after 6,000 gallons of water and "drilling mud" from a nearby pipeline operation infiltrated the home through an abandoned water well.
Becky Wieczorkowski said she heard cracking sounds at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and then noticed a piece of the ceiling fall into the bathtub.
"Before I realized what was happening, I saw the living room ceiling separate from the wall and I could see outside," she said. "One of the (pipeline) guys told me the house moved off of its foundation and I should get out and stay out."
Wieczorkowski, who shares the home with her husband and two dogs, said 4 feet of drilling fluid and water poured into the basement. Workers from MarkWest Energy had to break out a basement window to gain access for pumping equipment.
A MarkWest crew is drilling near her property as part of a pipeline installation under National Road. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the non-toxic drilling mud "is an important component in the drilling process. A fluid is required in the wellbore to cool and lubricate the drill bit; remove the rock fragments, or drill cuttings, from the drilling area and transport them to the surface; counterbalance formation pressure to prevent formation fluids (such as oil, gas, and water) from entering the well prematurely; and prevent the wellbore from caving in."
Robert McHale, manager of governmental and regulatory affairs for MarkWest Energy, said workers were doing a horizontal bore under the road near the Wieczorkowski home when the drilling fluid pushed up through the home's basement floor.
"We were roughly one-third through the bore when the landowner notified our onsite personnel that there was mud in the basement," he said.
McHale said workers immediately implemented a contingency plan to deal with the problem and to accommodate the homeowners.
"The bottom line is we are going to take care of these people," he said. "We will identify temporary living quarters and make sure their needs are met."
McHale said company officials are working to determine what went wrong.
"Prior to setting up, professional engineers came in and did subsurface investigations," he said. "Every component of the job had been planned out in advance."
He said a 200-foot offset existed between the home and the drilling site.
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise said 6,000 gallons of water and drilling fluid infiltrated the Wieczorkowski home through an uncased well under the house.
"We are not certain how the drilling mud traveled from the drilling site to the well," he said.
Ohio County Emergency Management Deputy Director Wayland Harris said Thursday's accident is a pipeline-related issue and has nothing to do with fracking water associated with gas well drilling.
Members of the Valley Grove and Triadelphia volunteer fire departments responded to the scene along with sheriff's deputies.