EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: DEP spokesman John Poister emailed me the following statement regarding the Cecil 23 Impoundment:
“DEP was notified of elevated chloride levels in one of its groundwater monitoring wells on July 11. On July 21st Range did additional sampling on the site. DEP will have inspectors on site next week to take our own samples from the groundwater monitoring and leak detection system at the impoundment. We do intend to contact property owners who are closest to and down gradient of the impoundment to determine if they would provide DEP access to their property to conduct sampling of their wells.
Samples will be analyzed for a wide range of inorganic and organics as well as other compounds. These lab tests generally take between 30 and 45 days to complete.
If DEP determines that groundwater may have been impacted, the DEP will require a comprehensive investigation of the groundwater including an assessment the private water wells with the potential to be impacted.
DEP has not had any complaints from private water well owners in the vicinity of the impoundment.”
A controversial Marcellus Shale centralized water impoundment Cecil Township operated by Range Resources and used in the fracking process may have contaminated nearby soil and groundwater, prompting municipal officials there today to hand-deliver letters to about 50 nearby residents.
“The township has come to learn that the impoundment is currently no holding any fluids and was taken out of service in April of this year,” the letter reads. “It is the township’s understanding that the impoundment was taken out of service as part of an investigation to determine whether any fluids entered the groundwater and soils in and around the impoundment site and the source of any fresh water.”
Cecil Township supervisors for more than a year have raised concerns about Cecil 23 impoundment, formerly known as the Worstell impoundment – and the board said in a press release that information it recently received “has furthered those concerns.”
Previously unknown to both the township and the public, is that on July 11 Range Resources notified the DEP that there were elevated chloride levels detected by the ground water monitoring wells at the Cecil 23 waste water impoundment, according to the press release.
In response to repeated inquiries by Cecil Township officials, the DEP confirmed Thursday that they will conduct a limited investigation.
Upon learning this information, Cecil Township called DEP and requested that they notify Cecil Township residents of potential ground water contamination. Unfortunately, the DEP declined to do so initially stating ‘the DEP will not make a general notification to residents, according to Cecil officials.
“Based on recent evidence of water and soil contamination at other Range Resource impoundments in Washington County coupled with concerns raised by Auditor General, DePasquale’s report on DEP performance; we feel that the public has a right to know if it’s safe to live in their neighborhood,” supervisor’s Chairman Andy Schrader said. “Our residents’ safety is our first concern.”
The township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed.
The Worstell impoundment made headlines in 2013, when Cecil Township supervisors sought to meet publicly with DEP regarding concerns over the frack pit.
DEP refused to meet in public, and documents obtained through a state Right to Know request showed high-ranking officials making a joke about using a provision in the open records law to keep the gathering in private.
News of possible groundwater and soil contamination at the Cecil 23 Impoundment comes in the wake of a “significant” leak at another Range Resources impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County. That leak necessitated the removal of at least 15,000 tons of soil. DEP issued notices of violation for the leak.
A third frack pit in Amwell run by Range Resources known as the Yeager impoundment – which was the subject of lawsuits and a federal probe – is reportedly in the process of being closed.
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking more information.
Editor’s Note: While the township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed, concerned citizens should contact both the township at 724-745-2227 and the DEP at 1-866-255-5158 with any questions or concerns.