By Amanda Gillooly
Crews have removed 500 tons of contaminated soil from a Range Resources centralized impoundment located in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site where the state Department of Environmental Protection last week said was a “significant leak.”
Although Matt Pitzarella, the Marcellus Shale drilling company’s director of corporate communications, disputed there was, in fact, a “leak” at the site, DEP’s spokesman John Poister on Tuesday morning was clear: Yes, there was a “significant leak” at the impoundment – one that will require even more soil to be removed.
Poister indicated that a DEP inspector was on scene Tuesday, and said two crews are working at the John Day imundment to remediate the area. One crew is removing soil, he said, while the other is using plastic to cover the ground in an effort to shield it from rainfall.
Rain, Poister said, would “just push the salt further into the ground.”
Poister said the DEP was not aware of where the soil is being transported, but confirmed that Range Resources is in the process of having its contents analyzed.
The DEP, he said, has not yet received a form from Range Resources that shows what chemicals are in the soil. Such a form is required by the state before contaminated soil can be dumped into a landfill.
Poister said DEP also did not know how much soil would potentially need to be removed from the John Day impoundment. However, a confidential source has said a significant amount of soil still needs to be removed.
The spokesman said DEP officials are in the process of drawing up a notice of violation, but could not say when it would be finalized and sent to Range Resources.
“We’re moving pretty fast on this, but we’re still collecting information,” Poister said.
Poister could not provide further details about whether the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township had been used to store fresh water or waste water, but said there “is not distinction” and could have been permitted either way.
He did say, however, that he did not believe the impoundment was being actively used when the leak was reported last week.
Further details on the nature of the leak were not immediately available Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how 500 tons of soil was contaminated following a leak from what Pitzarella told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was an empty impoundment.
Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process.
Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.
Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.
A spokesman from Range Resources’ media relations department did not immediately return a voice mail seeking more information.