Tag Archives: Worstell Impoundment

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cecil Township Warns Residents of Potential Water Contamination Near Frack Pit After DEP Refuses To

worstell

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.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Why Every Pennsylvanian Should Be Offended By the DEP

Not cool, DEP. Not cool.

Not cool, DEP. Not cool.

Let me tell you why you should be offended by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

(And forgive me for starting with a bit of necessary background):

See, when I was at Patch, I broke a story about a local impoundment operated by Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale driller Range Resources in Cecil Township. 

Local government officials there told me about a spate of issues they had with the Worstell impoundment in the wake of being notified by the DEP that Range wanted to make some major modifications there.

Then, when asked why many senior execs from Range and DEP met regarding the impoundment (information uncovered through a public records request on the frac pond) as evidenced by a sign in sheet for a meeting at the department’s regional headquarters, a local DEP spokesman told me it was regarding a leak there that had been repaired (and, of course, there was no further information for me on the matter).

Although Range and DEP told a competing news organization a short time later that there were no issues at the impoundment, and that there had not been a leak as much as a spill from a holding tank, the issue still put the frac pond in the spotlight locally.

Then Cecil Township officials asked the DEP (repeatedly) for a public meeting to get answers to questions and concerns with the Worstell Impoundment.

But the DEP – a public, tax-funded department? It refused.

Oh, they would meet with the supervisors.

Just not publicly. And with no additional visitors (such as local folks who lived near Worstell with specific questions). And with no recording devices – all behind closed doors.

Lemme tell you: My head almost exploded when I heard this was what the DEP had suggested.

Because this is how they tried to make it seem legit: They called the meeting a “conference,” after at one point saying there simply wasn’t enough space for many guests in the regional headquarters where the gathering was being held.

My opinion? Total BS.

And while I could not call the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s legal hotline to obtain an opinion on the legitimacy of this excuse (Patch sites are not eligible to be members), the Observer-Reporter’s Emily Petsko did.

Her story can be read here, but here’s what PNA said:

A conference typically involves some training that agency personnel receive from a state or federal authorities, according to Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Melewsky said that while a conference is permitted to be private under the state Sunshine Act, there is no reason that it cannot be made public.

What’s important is that they explain why they’re not having it publicly, and I think lack of space is not a good excuse,” Melewsky said. “I don’t think crowd size should be an issue. Public participation is a good thing. The fact that many people are interested is a positive, not a negative.”

Melewsky said that by law, a conference must not involve any deliberation of agency business.

Despite some public outcry, the meeting went on as planned.

When I was covering the issue, I couldn’t believe the audacity of the DEP. And, sometimes I pondered if members of the DEP were joking with each other about how they had gotten one over on all those concerned about the Worstell Impoundment with their flimsy technicality.

Then, state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, who was publicly outraged by this issue and others involving secret meetings, local officials and the drilling industry/cheerleaders, released some documents he uncovered from a state Right to Know request.

While there are some things in there that really make a person who reads the news nauseated, there is an email thread I found particularly disgusting.

And here, my friends, is why every Pennsylvanian should be offended by the DEP:

Despite major public outcry for more information on public safety and other issues regarding a frac pond, the DEP not only met behind closed doors in a most shady manner, but also snarked about it in internal emails.

In an email dated July 18, 2013, Alan Eichler (who is listed as the environmental program manager for the DEP’s Pittsburgh oil and gas division) wrote to DEP staff:

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).

All that email lacked was a proper emoticon, or maybe a “LOL” or even the elusive “LMMFAO!” to make it more juvenile.

Oh, but that’s just part of the fun stuff in the RTK documentation.

There was also a lengthy (and seemingly unsolicited) email from Range Resources spin doctor Matt Pitzarella to Petsko about how everything is just fine at Worstell.

…But why does the DEP have that email? Why would it be in the DEP’s Worstell file? Did Pitzarella blind CC a DEP spokesman on the matter? Was it meant to be talking points after that same DEP spokesman told me for publication that there was a “leak” at the site? 

There was even an email with state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, who has long been buddy-buddy with the Marcellus Shale folks. His suggestion? A pre-meeting so the whole thing didn’t turn into a “kangaroo court.”

Timmy, I thought you were elected to do the people's work?

Timmy, I thought you were elected to do the people’s work?

The coziness among the DEP and the industry/its cheerleaders is a little startling to me.

Because the DEP? Those are supposed to be the guys on our side – the guys with the public’s interest at heart.

I have long considered myself a student of the Sunshine Law, and those on boards I have covered during years of community reporting will attest: I am, perhaps, more aggressive about closed-doors meetings than most of my colleagues. I always insist that the board chairman in question do what he is supposed to: Announce, for the record, why the hell they are going into executive session.

Could be litigation. Could be personnel. Could be property acquisition. Could be there is a state conference that an organization such as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is hosting and all the members of a local school board want to attend (totally cool, the Sunshine Law dictates).

One thing it never is: “Um, this subject has, like, caused us a LOT of bad publicity, and it would be awfully inconvenient for us to actually sit down and answer questions from, like, anyone who wants to ask one from the public. So, yeah. We’re gonna just go ahead and meet – call it a conference. Also, no recording devices. No big.”

But that’s pretty much what the state Department of Environmental Protection did.

Editor’s Note: To access the Right to Know files released by White, click here. Also, if you’d like to tell Alan Eichler how you feel about his email, he can be reached by calling 412 442-4024. -amanda

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,