Tag Archives: John Poister

BREAKING: DEP Fines Range Resources $4.15 Million for Violating Environmental Regulations Consent Order; Agreement to Close 5 Washington County Impoundments

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

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

Editor’s Note: The following is from a news release put out today by the state Department of Environmental Protection. -amanda

The Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday announced it has signed a wide-ranging consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its Washington County centralized waste water impoundments.

The consent order requires the company to pay a $4.15 million fine, the largest against an oil and gas operator in the state’s shale drilling era, close five impoundments and upgrade two other impoundments to meet heightened “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.

“This action reaffirms the administration’s unwavering commitment to protecting Pennsylvania’s soil and water resources,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said. “This landmark consent order establishes a new, higher benchmark for companies to meet when designing future impoundments, which is an environmental win for Pennsylvania.”

Violations at the impoundments include various releases of contaminants, such as leaking flowback that affected soil and groundwater. To date there has been no impact on drinking water from any of these impoundments.

Under the consent order, Range Resources will immediately begin the closure of the Hopewell Township 11 (Lowry), Cecil Township 23 (Worstell), and Kearns impoundments.

Range Resources will also continue the closure of the Yeager impoundment. The company must close the Hopewell Township 12 (Bednarski) impoundment by April 1, 2015.

Additionally, the consent order also directs Range Resources to upgrade two other impoundments. The liner systems at the Chartiers Township 16 (Carol Baker) and Amwell Township 15 (Jon Day) impoundments will be completely redesigned and rebuilt to meet “next generation” standards currently under development at DEP.

When upgrading the two impoundments, Range Resources will install thicker liners than are currently required, an electrically conductive geomembrane that will allow better identification of potential leaks and a real-time leak detection system.  Range will also fully investigate and remediate any groundwater contamination caused by the previous operation of the impoundments.

Another impoundment, Mount Pleasant Township 17 (Carter), will be limited to storing only fresh water for as long as it remains in service. Range will also install a groundwater monitoring well network at the impoundment now and will perform an environmental site assessment at this impoundment once it is permanently closed.

The company will be required to report to DEP quarterly on the progress of the shutdown and remediation of the sites.

The consent order also requires Range Resources to immediately begin soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine what, if any, impact there was from their operation of the impoundments. If contamination is found, the company is required to remediate the sites.

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

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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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DEP Issues Notices of Violation to Range Resources Over Washington County Methane Leak

Range_Resources_Logo

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday issued notices of violation to Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources over a methane leak last month at a gas well in Washington County.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the “equipment failure” May 14 at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant Township that spurred a precautionary evacuation of a few dozen residents resulted in the company being issued Thursday with an NOV for failure to operate a well according to regulations, and for hazardous release of a gas into the air.

He said DEP is requiring Range Resources to provide it with a full explanation of what caused the equipment failure, as well as its plan to correct the problem. Additionally, Poister said DEP is requiring the company to provide it with information about the future of the well, which he said was not operational at the time of the leak.

That information is due back to DEP by July 11, he said.

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

 

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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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Crews Hauling Remaining 1,000 Tons of Contaminated Soil Out of Range Resources Impoundment in Washington County This Week

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(This photo of the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township as of earlier this month. Photo Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan.)

An environmental reclamation company is working this week to haul out the remaining 1,000 tons of contaminated soil from a Washington County impoundment operated by Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said Tuesday.

The spokesman, John Poister, said the company, Weavertown Environmental, had been waiting to receive the proper documentation called a Form U in order to transport the remaining soil effected by what DEP has described as a “significant leak” at the Amwell Township impoundment.

Poister said more than 2,000 tons of soil will have been removed from the impoundment and into area landfills when the cleanup at the site is complete.

While DEP last month issued a notice of violation to Range Resources for the leak, no civil penalty has yet been assessed. Poister said that remains a possibility, and indicated that an investigation is ongoing into how the pit’s leak detection system “failed miserably” – and how the leak, reported April 16, had gone unnoticed by Range Resources officials.

The results of a soil analysis were not immediately available, but Poister said initial tests indicate that salt is the primary contaminant.

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.

Editor’s Note: I wanted to thank Robert M. Donnan for kindly allowing me to publish his photo of the John Day impoundment – it is greatly appreciated!

 

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PA DEP’s Oil and Gas Manager Takes on New Role in Department’s Safe Drinking Water Program

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The Department of Environmental Protection’s longtime head of oil and gas operations today takes on a new role.

DEP spokesman John Poister on Tuesday said Alan Eichler is now the manager of the department’s southwestern Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water program after serving 28 years in the oil and gas division.

Poister said the move would likely give Eichler a “little change of pace.”

Nobody has yet been tapped to replace Eichler’s position in the oil and gas division, Poister said.

Some background on Eichler: Despite major public outcry for more information on public safety and other issues regarding a Cecil frac pond last year, Eichler  headed a meeting with township supervisors behind closed doors, and even snarked about the move in internal correspondence.

In an email dated July 18, 2013, Eichler wrote to DEP staff about the meeting called to address safety concerns at the pit. DEP officials claimed the meeting did not need to be made public because it was a “conference.” The state’s Sunshine Law governing open meetings indicates that conferences may be closed to the public:

We should be thinking about potential questions that are going to be asked at the August 9 meeting…uh, I mean conference (it’s not a meeting).

 

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Range Resources “Equipment Failure” Leads to Gas Leak, Precautionary Evacuation in Washington County

for range post

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is investigating an “equipment failure” at a Range Resources well pad in Washington County that caused a gas leak and spurred a precautionary evacuation of about 35 residents Wednesday morning.

DEP spokesman John Poister said Range Resources reported the “equipment failure” at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant to Washington County 911 at 7:14 a.m. Wednesday. The local volunteer fire department and Range Resources personnel responded.

The incident was reportedly under control by 7:54 a.m. No injuries were reported.

Poister said the failure led to a release of methane into the air, and indicated that while such a release is a violation, it is too early to tell if a formal notice of violation would be issued to Range Resources.

“We do not believe there was a tremendous amount of methane released,” he said. However, DEP is taking air quality samples “just to be sure.”

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

Editor’s Note: Photo was submitted by a resident who lives near the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant.

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UPDATE: 1,100 Tons of Contaminated Soil Removed Last Week From Range Resources Impoundment in Washington County

By Amanda Gillooly

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman on Tuesday said about 1,100 tons of dirt was trucked out of a Range Resources’ centralized impoundment last week in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site of a “significant leak” in April that led to the agency issuing a Notice of Violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.
DEP spokesman John Poister said it is likely that 2,100 tons of contaminated soil will ultimately need to be removed from the site.

“It’s a mountain of soil,” he said.

He confirmed that the leak is “serious enough” that a DEP inspector has been on scene at the John Day impoundment nearly every day.

“This is something we are taking very seriously,” he said, adding that DEP is committed to getting to the bottom of why the impoundment’s leak detection system didn’t work.

“This is a case where it failed miserably,” Poister said of the leak detection system. “Our concern is how long did this leak go unnoticed? We’re upset about this – the extent of the leak and why it wasn’t spotted earlier.”

He added it was “obvious to our people that this is not a small thing.”

Right now crews at the John Day impoundment are working to ensure tarps are secured to keep rain water out, and he said Range Resources was dealing with runoff issues Tuesday.

Poister said the first step in the remediation process is the removal and replacement of contaminated soil.

No timeline was available for the completion of that step, however. Poister said rain has slowed progress of work at the site.

A soil analysis was not yet available on Tuesday, but Poister confirmed that initial water quality tests indicated that chloride – or salt –  is the primary contaminant.

“Salt is very damaging,” Poister explained.

The soil is being transported out of the site using an existing Form U. The company responsible for the cleanup efforts, Weavertown Environmental, is currently in the process of obtaining a new Form U, he said.

DEP issued a notice of violation to Range Resources, and Poister said a civil penalty is possible, too. That, though, is be the final step in the process.

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

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Container Marked “Radioactive” at Range Resources Impoundment in Washington Co. Spurs Calls To DEP, Inspector Investigating

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By Amanda Gillooly

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday confirmed that an inspector had been called to a centralized impoundment in Washington County operated by Range Resources after residents complained about unusual activity there.

DEP spokesman John Poister said there was “material that raised some concern” at the Carter impoundment in Mt. Pleasant Township, and that the department was awaiting the results of soil characterization tests that Range Resources is conducting.

He said there was an issue with the weir system at the impoundment, which he said is used to filter solids out of water used in the fracking process.

Residents who live near the impoundment became concerned when they saw blue containers at the impoundment with stamps reading DOT SP 11406. An Internet search shows that these containers are used to transport radioactive waste.

Asked if those containers were actively being used by Range Resources to remove and transport radioactive waste, Poister said he did not know, but that the company would be required to have a permit known as a Form U in order to do so.

“I have not seen a Form U,” he said.

Poister said it was “premature” to draw conclusions until the soil characterization tests were completed. He said the results would likely be available Friday afternoon.

He also confirmed that DEP’s “radiation people are not involved,” adding that the department’s oil and gas folks were handling the issue.

“We have to wait and see what turns up,” Poister said.

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

Editor’s Note: Photos of the container and impoundment were submitted.

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