Tag Archives: centralized impoundments

DEP Issues Notice of Violation to Range Resources for Leaking Cecil Township Impoundment

worstell

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources for groundwater contamination at the former Worstell centralized waste water impoundment in Cecil Township.

News of the NOV was given to Cecil Township officials at a private meeting with DEP Monday night, board Chairman Andy Schrader said Tuesday morning.

Schrader said the NOV was issued to Range Resources because liquid from the frack pit, now known as Cecil 23 Impoundment, “escaped containment.”

“Since the DEP issued the notice of violation, this confirmed that the Cecil Township 23 is leaking. For the safety of our residents this was the township’s concern from the beginning,” Schrader.

He said DEP will arrange for further testing to be done at the site to determine the extent of the soil and water contamination.

Three officials from DEP met with all five Cecil supervisors and township Manager Don Gennusso at the municipal building for about two hours Monday to discuss ongoing concerns over possible groundwater contamination stemming from what is now confirmed to have been a leak.

The Monday meeting was requested by township officials after news 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.

“Range has until September 24 to respond.  It is our expectation that Range would perform a full characterization of the extent of the plume of contamination and to implement an appropriate remedial response to address the release,” DEP spokesman John Poister said in an email. “Still to be determined would be any civil penalty for Range.”

In response to repeated inquiries by Cecil Township officials, the DEP said last month that it would conduct a limited investigation. Cecil officials in turn sent letters to about 50 nearby residents letting them know about the potential for groundwater contamination.

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: It should be acknowledged that the former Worstell impoundment was the subject of industry PR spin. Check out this story and feel free to leave a comment asking for a correction.

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DEP: ‘My Bad,’ Range Resources Never Tested Soil at Leaking Impoundment for Drilling Chemicals

 

This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken by Robert Donnan, who kindly allowed me to use it.

This photo of the Jon Day impoundment was taken by Robert Donnan, who kindly allowed me to use it.

Ever since the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed a “significant leak” at a Range Resources centralized open impoundment in Washington County that required the excavation and removal of thousands of tons of soil, both the company and the department were adamant: The only contaminant was chloride – just salt.

Poister told the Observer-Reporter earlier this month, “Inspections revealed chloride in the soil and groundwater, which was a result of Southpointe-based Range Resources storing brine water in the impoundment, but no other materials or chemicals.”

But the reason might surprise you: Chlorides have only been detected because chlorides are the only thing Range Resources had its contractor test for, a DEP spokesman confirmed Monday.

This is contrary to information DEP spokesman John Poister gave Marcellus Monitor last week. On Thursday he said that “additional chemicals associated with drilling” had been detected in the contaminated soil during a “wider array” of testing.

“This is my bad,” Poister said Monday.

He explained that he had misheard the inspector, who had indicated that only conductivity testing had been completed at the site – what he described as being the “quickest” way to determine the extent of contamination – and that DEP would require that additional testing be completed.

But Poister was clear: Those wider array of tests are to be completed only after all the soil has been cleared from the site.

“That’s the protocol, we’ve got to get the soil out of there,” he explained. “We don’t jump the steps. The chief thing is to get that soil out.”

It was not clear how Range Resources would test soil after it had been hauled from the site.

Asked if DEP would conduct its own tests on soil at the Jon Day impoundment, Poister indicated that was not the role of the regulatory agency.

“The permit states (Range Resources) is required to do the testing. I don’t know beyond that,” he explained, adding that was the way state regulations are written.

Poister said crews are using conductivity tests to determine when to stop digging at the Jon Day impoundment at Amwell Township, where 10,000 tons of contaminated soil have already been excavated and hauled away from the former frack pit. At least 5,000 more tons will likely need to be removed, he said.

No deadline has been set for Range to complete the soil removal and conduct additional testing.

“This is not something that you do overnight,” he said about the cleanup effort.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information.

 

 

 

 

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15,000 Tons of Contaminated Soil Likely to be Hauled from Range Resources Frack Pit, Groundwater Likely Effected

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(This photo of the John Day impoundment was taken in May by Robert Donnan, who graciously allowed me to use it.)

The amount of contaminated soil that will need to be removed from a Washington County centralized impoundment operated by Range Resources will be “even more” than the state Department of Environmental Protection had previously estimated, a spokesman confirmed Monday.

While DEP spokesman John Poister last month told the Observer-Reporter that as many as 10,000 tons would need to be excavated and hauled out of the Amwell Township site and into area landfills, on Monday he said it could actually be as much as 15,000 tons.

And Poister also confirmed that the “major leak” there has had some effect on the groundwater.

He said one ground well monitor showed chloride in the water there, Poister said.

DEP is still investigating, and said an inspector has been on scene at the impoundment almost every other day.

DEP issued a notice of violation to Range Resources, and Poister said additional citations related to the leak are likely. A civil penalty may also be assessed, he said.

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.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

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.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information.

Here is a Google Earth image of the John Day impoundment in relation to a local elementary school.

Here is a Google Earth image of the John Day impoundment in relation to a local elementary school.

 

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PA State Rep Introduces Law Requiring Full Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals, Mandatory Air Quality Monitoring

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

By Amanda Gillooly

A Pennsylvania state representative announced this week that he has introduced two new bills in the state House that he said would help further promote responsible Marcellus Shale drilling operations in local communities.

House Bill 1721, the “Fair Frac Disclosure Act,” would mandate the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, including the disclosure of compounds labeled as “proprietary” by drilling company vendors and subcontractors.

White said that when companies dump drilling waste water from multiple sites into open-air waste water impoundments, chemicals from the fracking process can mix, react and release into the air or into groundwater if the impoundments leak.

White said that the Fair Frac Disclosure Act would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to maintain a public database of all compounds used by an applicant before a permit could be issued, thus providing transparency and accountability to Pennsylvania residents.

“Local residents who live near industrial drilling operations at the very least deserve to know what chemicals are being put into the air and water as part of the fracking process,” said White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington. “While I applaud the recent news of hydraulic fracturing supplier Baker Hughes deciding to disclose all of its chemicals, not all companies are following suit. This legislation would simply add another layer of protection for our local communities.”

White’s second bill, House Bill 2172, would mandate that air-quality monitoring systems be placed near all natural-gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized waste water impoundments.

Centralized impoundments have become a controversial issue in western Pennsylvania, with news earlier this month that there was a “significant leak” at a Range Resources pit in Amwell Township, Washington County. The DEP said hundreds of tons of contaminated soil has already been removed, and a source says thousands of tons more may follow suit. The incident spurred the DEP to issue notices of violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.

Under this bill, White said such monitoring systems would be required at all current and future sites as a condition of their permitting. The legislation would require that all air-quality levels recorded by monitoring systems be made publicly accessible through a real-time display posted on the Internet.

White pointed to a recent Associated Press report on preliminary data from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project regarding cases in which residents might have experienced problems as a result of living in close proximity to natural gas drilling operations. To date, the project has discovered 27 cases in which residents developed symptoms and illnesses after nearby operations began.

Natural gas drilling in our region is here and here to stay, but that does not mean we should ignore simple and commonsense practices that would promote more transparency and provide for honest, fact-based debate,” White said. “When dealing with the health and well-being of our local communities and residents, the public should have access to the scientific facts and figures surrounding drilling in an unfiltered way, and my legislation offers that – nothing more, nothing less.”

 

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DEP: 500 Tons of Contaminated Soil Removed From Range Resources Impoundment Following Washington County Leak

By Amanda Gillooly

 

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) The John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
The John Day Impoundment

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.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

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.

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