Letter to the Editor, Aug. 29, 2010

A Letter to the Editor, Towanda, PA:

Loss of one resource for another?

EDITOR: Being a licensed Pennsylvania water well driller for the past 40 years and being born and raised in the Towanda area, I feel I must respond to the stories I keep reading about the gas drilling companies shifting the blame of water well problems to poor well construction and local water well drilling.

One such story was in this week’s Sunday Review (Aug. 22, 2010). And before I begin I want it known that any subsequent mention of the Chesapeake company shows no hostility towards them or their representatives. With mutual respect and dual acknowledgement of experience, I do believe that natural gas extraction and water well drilling can harmoniously coincide in Northeast Pennsylvania.

First of all, if a water well is not constructed properly, there are problems from day one and not 10, 20 even 50 years later.

Referring to Sunday’s article, Brian Grove of Chesapeake stated he does not believe, the facts, implicate its drilling operations is causing the water issues at hand. We have not spoken with any of the Paradise Road residents, but, the fact is, we have recently received many calls from local homeowners regarding disturbances in their water wells that began after nearby gas drilling activity had started. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the time line coincidence and figure out gas drilling activity probably has caused these water well issues.

Again referring to the Sunday article, Mr. Grove wrote, affected water wells are drilled into shallow aquifers. Most of our calls pertain to rock wells, but our answer to his comment is, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas! In many local areas, residents depend on the shallow aquifers because the deeper water is salty, or sulfury, and not compatible to human consumption. What a shame to disturb their only potable water resource.

And Mr. Grove’s insinuation that poor water well construction could be causing current water well issues is a direct disrespect to me, my father before me, and other local reputable water well drillers. Speaking for myself and my father’s memory, we have drilled thousands of water wells during decades of business in Northeast Pennsylvania. Our continued good reputation is testimony that we do successfully construct quality water wells. I invite Mr. Grove to call me to discuss well construction but not to come into my hometown and discredit my work. Mr. Grove stated that Chesapeake has offered to drill replacement water wells of “superior construction standards.” A recent telephone conversation with Chesapeake representative Larry Wooten makes me question what he means by “superior construction standards?”

Mr. Wooten called in regards to me drilling a replacement well on my neighbor’s property. He quizzed me about my practices and prices. When I told him I use a steel drive shoe on the bottom of my casing to seal contaminates from entering the well, he told me they never use them and thought this contaminant seal was an unnecessary added cost. Again, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas. I believe embedding a steel drive shoe into rock formations is necessary to superiorly construct a Pennsylvania water well.

To end, we believe Northeast Pennsylvania is both blessed and cursed by the Marcellus Shale mineral deposits which lie underneath our homes. The excitement of gas lease funding and large drilling rigs coming to our area has been replaced by damaged roads; delayed travel and traffic snarls; streams sucked dry by convoys of trucks, driven by persons foreign to our area, who may skillfully drive Texas flatlands but have difficulty maneuvering our hilly serpentine roadways; residential sweet water invaded by methane that is blowing off well caps; local families displaced by gas workers; and other changes affecting our work and lifestyles.

Unlike cautious New York state, we think Pennsylvania jumped the gun and has allowed natural gas drilling companies into our area too soon, in too large of numbers, and with too few regulations in place. The saying, you don’t know the worth of the water until the well is dry, sounds like a reality to us. Our drinking water is being affected and millions of gallons of water are being extracted from our streams, rivers and municipal wells with insufficient recharge. Well, Sen. Casey, we agree it is high time to protect our water, our people and our future.

Thomas and Loraine Cummings Water Well Drilling

Towanda

http://thedailyreview.com/opinion/letters/letter-to-the-editor-aug-29-2010-1.980232

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Gas Drilling Problems and Dangers

Good info and thoughts from Splashdown

by laura legere (staff writer)
thetimes-tribune.com
Published: June 21, 2010

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Fear about environmental damage from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling is often trained on what could happen deep underground, but some of the gravest hazards posed by the process are driven in trucks, stored in tanks, carried through hoses and left in pits on the surface of natural gas well sites.

Concentrated chemicals, as well as wastewater containing toxic levels of salts and metals, are stored, produced or transported in large quantities at each well site, creating the potential for tainting drinking water or seeping into local ponds and streams.

While recent incidents at Marcellus Shale wells involving explosions, blowouts and methane-contaminated drinking water have drawn attention to the dangerous potential of the activity, information about the industry wide frequency and impact of spills and leaks has not been reported publicly.

Department of Environmental Protection files made available to The Times-Tribune through a Right-to-Know request reveal hundreds of examples of spills at natural gas drilling sites in the state during the last five years, recorded by at least 92 different drilling companies.

The documents show that many of the largest operators in the Marcellus Shale have been issued violations for spills that reached waterways, leaking pits that harmed drinking water, or failed pipes that drained into farmers’ fields, killing shrubs and trees.

The frequency of violations has kept the state’s gas inspectors on the run.

After a Marcellus Shale hearing last week, DEP produced a list for state legislators of 421 violations found by inspectors at Marcellus Shale wells this year through June 4.

At least 50 of the violations – recorded by 15 different Marcellus operators – involved a spill to soil or water. Generic descriptions used by the department to characterize the violations make it impossible to determine the exact number of spills.

“It goes from an accident to negligence,” DEP Secretary John Hanger said at the hearing, and attributed the problems to “poor management” and “not proper oversight” by the companies.

“This industry’s got to look in the mirror,” he said.

Kathryn Klaber, the director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Pennsylvania industry group, said shale drilling is an industrial activity, like many others.

“Any spill is a problem,” she said. “For PR (public relations) reasons, for fines, for reputation, stock price – there’s no good reason to have one.”

(Notice she doesn’t even mention environmental harm… just PR, fines, reputation and stock price!)

But, she added, “I think if we were looking across multiple industries … the question I’d like to pose is, is it worse or better than others?”

(THE INCREDIBLE ARROGANCE OF THIS KIND OF THINKING NEEDS TO BE REDRESSED! …Comparison to greater destruction is no excuse, it’s just inexcusable! -Splashdown)

The following list highlights examples of spills, seeps and accidents as described in DEP documents that have been committed by an array of Marcellus Shale operators.

It illustrates that none of the companies currently pulling gas from the shale has been able to avoid potentially harmful accidents and errors.

 

Spills and leaks near a state forest

An accident at a Marcellus Shale well in early June caused a geyser of gas and wastewater to erupt for 16 hours on property owned by a private hunting club in the middle of a state forest frequented by campers and anglers.

The well is one of 44 permitted or pending Marcellus Shale wells operated by Houston-based EOG Resources on the hunting club land in Clearfield County, and the nearly catastrophic rupture was a dramatic demonstration of the hazards of natural gas drilling.

But months before that incident, a seemingly invisible plume of contamination affected water sources around the same EOG lease, prompting months of investigation by DEP.

Beginning in late August 2009, inspectors found evidence that Marcellus Shale waste fluids had impacted Alex Branch, a wild trout stream and high-quality fishery, and damaged the drinking water at a nearby hunting camp, where water tests found barium that was four times above the state and federal drinking water limits – an amount that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and muscle weakness after drinking it for even a short period of time.

DEP inspectors had not noticed any evidence of a spill from the nearest EOG well site and could see nothing wrong with the earthen pit where the company stored the well’s waste, but it was determined that undetected seeps from one pit, and maybe several, most likely caused the wastewater to contaminate the stream.

An accident in early August may also have contributed to the damage when a small hole in a hose carrying wastewater from the well sprayed a fine mist for several days that landed on nearby plants and a small wetland. A heavy rain swamped the pad, likely washing the fluids downhill to the hunting camp and stream.

In response to the leaks, EOG excavated the suspected faulty pit and another nearby pit, backfilled other unused pits on the lease and transitioned to a system in which drilling fluids and waste drawn from a well are piped to closed tanks rather than pits, which helps to minimize the risk of seeps and overflows. In an e-mail to DEP, the EOG environmental safety administrator said the company would transition to the safer systems, which are not required by Pennsylvania law, because “we don’t want to risk anything.”

In a separate incident, on Oct. 12, 2009, a leak in a tank used to store a fluid mixture of water and hydraulic fracturing chemicals spilled about 7,980 gallons, most of which was absorbed into the ground.

It caused a nearby tributary to Alex Branch to turn cloudy and suds when agitated.

An EOG spokeswoman said the company “regrets these incidents occurred and took immediate steps to address the issues,” including adopting new operating procedures and hiring outside contractors to perform water sampling after both events.

Acid leaks and unlabeled tanks

Twice in two months, hydrochloric acid spilled at two wells sites operated by Chesapeake Appalachia in Bradford County – including once when the company used a tank that was not meant to store the acid.

Alarmed notes from an inspector’s telephone conversation with the tank’s manufacturer at the time of the first spill, at the Chancellor well site in Asylum Twp. in February 2009, showed the tank was not designed or lined to hold 36 percent hydrochloric acid, and that even less concentrated acid should only have been held for a day and a half.

“Somebody messed up big time to put 14,000 gall. 36% HCL in a frac tank for 30 days!!” the note stated.

DEP records also show the same inspector pursuing concerns about the proper labeling of the tank, which was one among between 25 and 50 identical 500-barrel, corrugated wall storage tanks on site without placards to differentiate it.

“It’s bad enough dealing with unlabeled 55 gallon drums in our line of work,” he wrote in an internal e-mail, “but having to contend with unlabeled 21,000 gallon acid ‘frac’ tanks in the boondocks, on properties that have unrestricted access, is a bit much.”

The second acid spill, at the Vannoy well site in Granville Twp., may have contributed to the contamination of a private pond and a 30-foot swath of dead or stressed vegetation, including several evergreen trees.

The 420-gallon acid spill was one of several accidents at the site DEP thought might have caused the damage, including a spill of several thousand gallons of water on March 3, 2009, that was never tested for metals and salts, the hallmark constituents of Marcellus Shale wastewater.

The acid spill, on March 20, also flowed into the pond. Chesapeake neutralized the acid and removed the contaminated soil, but a cleanup plan commissioned by the company in December said some of the acid likely percolated through the pad and may have remained perched on the shallow bedrock causing additional contamination.

In July, DEP inspectors found stained areas at the base of a waste pit where the company left rock cuttings and drilling fluids in direct contact with the ground, and said the stain was a sign that drilling fluid “either has or is seeping from the pit.”

DEP fined Chesapeake $27,271.93 and its hydraulic fracturing contractor BJ Services $8,598.46 for the second hydrochloric acid spill in February 2010, a fine the agency never announced publicly.

Brian Grove, Chesapeake’s director of corporate development, said the company “responded proactively to both situations” and “learned very valuable lessons from the incidents.” It turned those lessons into new operating practices, including requiring secondary containment for all materials brought to a pad, he said.

Hydrochloric acid on public roads

A worker for Fortuna Energy (now called Talisman Energy USA) drove a tanker leaking hydrochloric acid about 2½ miles over public roads between two of the company’s well sites in Troy Twp., Bradford County, on June 30, 2009.

At the second site, the driver, wearing an acid-resistant suit and a respirator, tried to put a catch pan under the leak, passed out from inhaling the fumes and was taken by helicopter to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. The tanker lost between 100 and 200 gallons of acid and contaminated soil was later removed from both sites.

Talisman did not report the spill to DEP until late the next day, a delay DEP officials called “unacceptable.”

A February 2010 press release from DEP announced a $3,500 fine for some incidents at one of the pads involved with the acid spill, but it did not address that spill. It also did not address three drilling wastewater spills in July and August 2009 on the same two well pads.

Efforts to reach a Talisman spokesman were unsuccessful. In the company’s written response to DEP after the acid spill, the operations manager said it “takes the issue very seriously” and he visited each well site to emphasize to workers “the importance of our zero spill approach.”

Mud eruption in a wetland

Crews for Chief Gathering – the pipeline subsidiary of driller Chief Oil and Gas – were boring a path for a pipeline 13 feet under a stream, wetland and road in Penn Twp., Lycoming County, on December 12, 2009, when the muds used to drill the hole erupted to the surface, spilling between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons into the wetland.

Initial reports from the company estimated the spill to be only about 100 gallons and to have stopped at least 10 feet away from the stream, but the DEP inspector who was called two days later found sandbags and a silt sock right at the water’s edge and the barrier did not prevent some of the mud from reaching the stream.

Efforts to clean up the spill were slowed, first because the muds clogged the suction hoses the company used to try to remove it from the wetland, and later because the fluids froze solid.

While he was on site, the inspector also saw evidence of muds in a roadside ditch and was told that there had been another, unreported spill on December 10 of about 110 gallons.

The inspector noted that chemical safety sheets provided by the company for the mud, “Hydraul-EZ,” listed the ingredients bentonite, a kind of clay, and a “bentonite extender,” but the manufacturer “claims that any further details about these substances is proprietary” making it “difficult” to determine the potential of the mud to cause pollution.

Kristi Gittins, a Chief spokeswoman, said that the spilled mud is “not hazardous. It’s dirt.”

“There were no chemicals, and the DEP knows that,” she said.

The remedy for such a spill is to “let it settle,” she said, which is what the company was told to do.

Overflowing waste pit 1

More than 30,000 gallons of diluted wastewater overflowed a waste pit, rushed over a barrier and soaked a pasture on June 3, 2009, when workers transferring the fluid to the site owned by East Resources in Tioga County accidentally dumped too much into the pit.

The spill was first noticed by DEP inspectors, who happened to stop by the well pad.

The fluid was diluted enough, and cleaned up quickly enough, not to kill or stress vegetation, and the fluid did not appear to reach a stream.

The pit was among four at East Resources well sites in Tioga and Potter counties that discharged the wastewater they were holding. The three other pits all leaked and at least one was concentrated enough to kill or stress nearby vegetation.

East is finalizing a consent order with DEP that covers those and about 30 other violations at its sites, according to a violation notice posted on a DEP database that indicates the company will pay a $29,000 fine.

Stephen Rhoads, East’s director of external affairs, said the spill was an “unfortunate accident” with no long-term impact.

“Working with DEP, we took care of it immediately,” he said.

Overflowing waste pit 2

A 750,000-gallon pit holding a mixture of fresh water and wastewater overflowed off a well pad run by Atlas Resources in Washington County, through a drain and into a small tributary in a high quality watershed on December 5 and 6, 2009.

The spill was reported to DEP by the property owner, who noticed the spill before Atlas saw or reported it. It apparently was caused by a pump that turned on automatically but had no mechanism for turning off automatically when the pit was full.

The spill, for which the company has not been fined, is one of several violations the company has recorded in southwestern Pennsylvania. In January, DEP fined Atlas $85,000 for violations at 13 well sites between December 2008 and July 2009, including improper erosion controls and site remediation, and spills of diesel fuel and wastewater.

In late March, on the same Hopewell Twp. farm as the pit overflow, liquid hydrocarbons called condensate on the surface of a 400,000-gallon wastewater pit caught fire, engulfing the pit and burning its plastic liner, causing a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles.

Atlas, a Pennsylvania company, also drills non-Marcellus Shale natural gas wells, including one near Kushequa, McKean County which DEP found to have caused explosive levels of methane and ethane to seep into residential water supplies and triggered a small explosion in the village’s public well in late 2007.

Efforts to reach an Atlas spokesman were unsuccessful.

Hydraulic oil leak

An oil leak from a hydraulic line in March 2008 spilled onto a field and into natural springs surrounding a Range Resources – Appalachia well in Washington County. The oil mixed with water and flowed 100 yards downhill, contaminating soil and killing vegetation.

Range excavated the contaminated soil and paid a $21,200 fine in June 2009 for the spills at that site and for 16 other violations, an enforcement action that was never publicized by DEP.

DEP also investigated whether a Marcellus Shale well drilled by Range on the same property affected an old abandoned well, causing gas to contaminate private water supplies and bubble up through the soil.

Matt Pitzarella, a Range spokesman, said the gas migration was a preexisting issue that was only discovered once Range’s activities started on the site. The company capped and remediated the old well, he said.

The oil leak he called a mechanical error, and said the other violations included many that were administrative.

“Fortunately it was an incident that had minimal if any environmental impact, but you have to take care of every little detail,” he said.

“Since that time we’ve increased efforts to keep spills on location.”

Two months, two diesel spills

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. had two 800-gallon diesel spills in five weeks in 2008 at some of its earliest Marcellus Shale sites in Dimock Twp.

On June 3, off-road diesel spilled from a break in a fuel line to a drilling rig, ran down a hill and into a roadside swale and pooled in a flooded wetland near Meshoppen Creek.

On July 11, a dump truck driver working to build an access road to a well backed into a 1,000-gallon tank of off-road diesel, panicked and dragged the tank about 30 feet before it tipped over and spilled onto the ground. Crews dug pits and vacuumed up about 170 gallons of the visible diesel, then removed contaminated soil and stone from the site. When two of nine soil tests showed continued contamination, contractors dug a foot deeper and excavated more soil. A total of 272 tons of contaminated soil was taken from the site.

The company was fined $4,915.30 for the first spill after the site was cleaned up.

According to DEP records, Cabot was never fined for the second spill.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said the company “works hard to ensure that we have a plan in place to control and maintain any accidental release.”

DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY!


Posted By SPLASHDOWN to SPLASHDOWN! at 6/21/2010 11:46:00 AM Fear about environmental damage from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling is often trained on what could happen deep underground, but some of the gravest hazards posed by the process are driven in trucks, stored in tanks, carried through hoses and left in pits on the surface of natural gas well sites.

Concentrated chemicals, as well as wastewater containing toxic levels of salts and metals, are stored, produced or transported in large quantities at each well site, creating the potential for tainting drinking water or seeping into local ponds and streams.

While recent incidents at Marcellus Shale wells involving explosions, blowouts and methane-contaminated drinking water have drawn attention to the dangerous potential of the activity, information about the industry wide frequency and impact of spills and leaks has not been reported publicly.

Department of Environmental Protection files made available to The Times-Tribune through a Right-to-Know request reveal hundreds of examples of spills at natural gas drilling sites in the state during the last five years, recorded by at least 92 different drilling companies.

The documents show that many of the largest operators in the Marcellus Shale have been issued violations for spills that reached waterways, leaking pits that harmed drinking water, or failed pipes that drained into farmers’ fields, killing shrubs and trees.

The frequency of violations has kept the state’s gas inspectors on the run.

After a Marcellus Shale hearing last week, DEP produced a list for state legislators of 421 violations found by inspectors at Marcellus Shale wells this year through June 4.

At least 50 of the violations – recorded by 15 different Marcellus operators – involved a spill to soil or water. Generic descriptions used by the department to characterize the violations make it impossible to determine the exact number of spills.

“It goes from an accident to negligence,” DEP Secretary John Hanger said at the hearing, and attributed the problems to “poor management” and “not proper oversight” by the companies.

“This industry’s got to look in the mirror,” he said.

Kathryn Klaber, the director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Pennsylvania industry group, said shale drilling is an industrial activity, like many others.

“Any spill is a problem,” she said. “For PR (public relations) reasons, for fines, for reputation, stock price – there’s no good reason to have one.”

(Notice she doesn’t even mention environmental harm… just PR, fines, reputation and stock price!)

But, she added, “I think if we were looking across multiple industries … the question I’d like to pose is, is it worse or better than others?”

(THE INCREDIBLE ARROGANCE OF THIS KIND OF THINKING NEEDS TO BE REDRESSED! …Comparison to greater destruction is no excuse, it’s just inexcusable! -Splashdown)

 

The following list highlights examples of spills, seeps and accidents as described in DEP documents that have been committed by an array of Marcellus Shale operators.

It illustrates that none of the companies currently pulling gas from the shale has been able to avoid potentially harmful accidents and errors.

 

Spills and leaks near a state forest

An accident at a Marcellus Shale well in early June caused a geyser of gas and wastewater to erupt for 16 hours on property owned by a private hunting club in the middle of a state forest frequented by campers and anglers.

The well is one of 44 permitted or pending Marcellus Shale wells operated by Houston-based EOG Resources on the hunting club land in Clearfield County, and the nearly catastrophic rupture was a dramatic demonstration of the hazards of natural gas drilling.

But months before that incident, a seemingly invisible plume of contamination affected water sources around the same EOG lease, prompting months of investigation by DEP.

Beginning in late August 2009, inspectors found evidence that Marcellus Shale waste fluids had impacted Alex Branch, a wild trout stream and high-quality fishery, and damaged the drinking water at a nearby hunting camp, where water tests found barium that was four times above the state and federal drinking water limits – an amount that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and muscle weakness after drinking it for even a short period of time.

DEP inspectors had not noticed any evidence of a spill from the nearest EOG well site and could see nothing wrong with the earthen pit where the company stored the well’s waste, but it was determined that undetected seeps from one pit, and maybe several, most likely caused the wastewater to contaminate the stream.

An accident in early August may also have contributed to the damage when a small hole in a hose carrying wastewater from the well sprayed a fine mist for several days that landed on nearby plants and a small wetland. A heavy rain swamped the pad, likely washing the fluids downhill to the hunting camp and stream.

In response to the leaks, EOG excavated the suspected faulty pit and another nearby pit, backfilled other unused pits on the lease and transitioned to a system in which drilling fluids and waste drawn from a well are piped to closed tanks rather than pits, which helps to minimize the risk of seeps and overflows. In an e-mail to DEP, the EOG environmental safety administrator said the company would transition to the safer systems, which are not required by Pennsylvania law, because “we don’t want to risk anything.”

In a separate incident, on Oct. 12, 2009, a leak in a tank used to store a fluid mixture of water and hydraulic fracturing chemicals spilled about 7,980 gallons, most of which was absorbed into the ground.

It caused a nearby tributary to Alex Branch to turn cloudy and suds when agitated.

An EOG spokeswoman said the company “regrets these incidents occurred and took immediate steps to address the issues,” including adopting new operating procedures and hiring outside contractors to perform water sampling after both events.

Acid leaks and unlabeled tanks

Twice in two months, hydrochloric acid spilled at two wells sites operated by Chesapeake Appalachia in Bradford County – including once when the company used a tank that was not meant to store the acid.

Alarmed notes from an inspector’s telephone conversation with the tank’s manufacturer at the time of the first spill, at the Chancellor well site in Asylum Twp. in February 2009, showed the tank was not designed or lined to hold 36 percent hydrochloric acid, and that even less concentrated acid should only have been held for a day and a half.

“Somebody messed up big time to put 14,000 gall. 36% HCL in a frac tank for 30 days!!” the note stated.

DEP records also show the same inspector pursuing concerns about the proper labeling of the tank, which was one among between 25 and 50 identical 500-barrel, corrugated wall storage tanks on site without placards to differentiate it.

“It’s bad enough dealing with unlabeled 55 gallon drums in our line of work,” he wrote in an internal e-mail, “but having to contend with unlabeled 21,000 gallon acid ‘frac’ tanks in the boondocks, on properties that have unrestricted access, is a bit much.”

The second acid spill, at the Vannoy well site in Granville Twp., may have contributed to the contamination of a private pond and a 30-foot swath of dead or stressed vegetation, including several evergreen trees.

The 420-gallon acid spill was one of several accidents at the site DEP thought might have caused the damage, including a spill of several thousand gallons of water on March 3, 2009, that was never tested for metals and salts, the hallmark constituents of Marcellus Shale wastewater.

The acid spill, on March 20, also flowed into the pond. Chesapeake neutralized the acid and removed the contaminated soil, but a cleanup plan commissioned by the company in December said some of the acid likely percolated through the pad and may have remained perched on the shallow bedrock causing additional contamination.

In July, DEP inspectors found stained areas at the base of a waste pit where the company left rock cuttings and drilling fluids in direct contact with the ground, and said the stain was a sign that drilling fluid “either has or is seeping from the pit.”

DEP fined Chesapeake $27,271.93 and its hydraulic fracturing contractor BJ Services $8,598.46 for the second hydrochloric acid spill in February 2010, a fine the agency never announced publicly.

Brian Grove, Chesapeake’s director of corporate development, said the company “responded proactively to both situations” and “learned very valuable lessons from the incidents.” It turned those lessons into new operating practices, including requiring secondary containment for all materials brought to a pad, he said.

Hydrochloric acid on public roads

A worker for Fortuna Energy (now called Talisman Energy USA) drove a tanker leaking hydrochloric acid about 2½ miles over public roads between two of the company’s well sites in Troy Twp., Bradford County, on June 30, 2009.

At the second site, the driver, wearing an acid-resistant suit and a respirator, tried to put a catch pan under the leak, passed out from inhaling the fumes and was taken by helicopter to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. The tanker lost between 100 and 200 gallons of acid and contaminated soil was later removed from both sites.

Talisman did not report the spill to DEP until late the next day, a delay DEP officials called “unacceptable.”

A February 2010 press release from DEP announced a $3,500 fine for some incidents at one of the pads involved with the acid spill, but it did not address that spill. It also did not address three drilling wastewater spills in July and August 2009 on the same two well pads.

Efforts to reach a Talisman spokesman were unsuccessful. In the company’s written response to DEP after the acid spill, the operations manager said it “takes the issue very seriously” and he visited each well site to emphasize to workers “the importance of our zero spill approach.”

Mud eruption in a wetland

Crews for Chief Gathering – the pipeline subsidiary of driller Chief Oil and Gas – were boring a path for a pipeline 13 feet under a stream, wetland and road in Penn Twp., Lycoming County, on December 12, 2009, when the muds used to drill the hole erupted to the surface, spilling between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons into the wetland.

Initial reports from the company estimated the spill to be only about 100 gallons and to have stopped at least 10 feet away from the stream, but the DEP inspector who was called two days later found sandbags and a silt sock right at the water’s edge and the barrier did not prevent some of the mud from reaching the stream.

Efforts to clean up the spill were slowed, first because the muds clogged the suction hoses the company used to try to remove it from the wetland, and later because the fluids froze solid.

While he was on site, the inspector also saw evidence of muds in a roadside ditch and was told that there had been another, unreported spill on December 10 of about 110 gallons.

The inspector noted that chemical safety sheets provided by the company for the mud, “Hydraul-EZ,” listed the ingredients bentonite, a kind of clay, and a “bentonite extender,” but the manufacturer “claims that any further details about these substances is proprietary” making it “difficult” to determine the potential of the mud to cause pollution.

Kristi Gittins, a Chief spokeswoman, said that the spilled mud is “not hazardous. It’s dirt.”

“There were no chemicals, and the DEP knows that,” she said.

The remedy for such a spill is to “let it settle,” she said, which is what the company was told to do.

Overflowing waste pit 1

More than 30,000 gallons of diluted wastewater overflowed a waste pit, rushed over a barrier and soaked a pasture on June 3, 2009, when workers transferring the fluid to the site owned by East Resources in Tioga County accidentally dumped too much into the pit.

The spill was first noticed by DEP inspectors, who happened to stop by the well pad.

The fluid was diluted enough, and cleaned up quickly enough, not to kill or stress vegetation, and the fluid did not appear to reach a stream.

The pit was among four at East Resources well sites in Tioga and Potter counties that discharged the wastewater they were holding. The three other pits all leaked and at least one was concentrated enough to kill or stress nearby vegetation.

East is finalizing a consent order with DEP that covers those and about 30 other violations at its sites, according to a violation notice posted on a DEP database that indicates the company will pay a $29,000 fine.

Stephen Rhoads, East’s director of external affairs, said the spill was an “unfortunate accident” with no long-term impact.

“Working with DEP, we took care of it immediately,” he said.

Overflowing waste pit 2

A 750,000-gallon pit holding a mixture of fresh water and wastewater overflowed off a well pad run by Atlas Resources in Washington County, through a drain and into a small tributary in a high quality watershed on December 5 and 6, 2009.

The spill was reported to DEP by the property owner, who noticed the spill before Atlas saw or reported it. It apparently was caused by a pump that turned on automatically but had no mechanism for turning off automatically when the pit was full.

The spill, for which the company has not been fined, is one of several violations the company has recorded in southwestern Pennsylvania. In January, DEP fined Atlas $85,000 for violations at 13 well sites between December 2008 and July 2009, including improper erosion controls and site remediation, and spills of diesel fuel and wastewater.

In late March, on the same Hopewell Twp. farm as the pit overflow, liquid hydrocarbons called condensate on the surface of a 400,000-gallon wastewater pit caught fire, engulfing the pit and burning its plastic liner, causing a plume of black smoke that was visible for miles.

Atlas, a Pennsylvania company, also drills non-Marcellus Shale natural gas wells, including one near Kushequa, McKean County which DEP found to have caused explosive levels of methane and ethane to seep into residential water supplies and triggered a small explosion in the village’s public well in late 2007.

Efforts to reach an Atlas spokesman were unsuccessful.

Hydraulic oil leak

An oil leak from a hydraulic line in March 2008 spilled onto a field and into natural springs surrounding a Range Resources – Appalachia well in Washington County. The oil mixed with water and flowed 100 yards downhill, contaminating soil and killing vegetation.

Range excavated the contaminated soil and paid a $21,200 fine in June 2009 for the spills at that site and for 16 other violations, an enforcement action that was never publicized by DEP.

DEP also investigated whether a Marcellus Shale well drilled by Range on the same property affected an old abandoned well, causing gas to contaminate private water supplies and bubble up through the soil.

Matt Pitzarella, a Range spokesman, said the gas migration was a preexisting issue that was only discovered once Range’s activities started on the site. The company capped and remediated the old well, he said.

The oil leak he called a mechanical error, and said the other violations included many that were administrative.

“Fortunately it was an incident that had minimal if any environmental impact, but you have to take care of every little detail,” he said.

“Since that time we’ve increased efforts to keep spills on location.”

Two months, two diesel spills

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. had two 800-gallon diesel spills in five weeks in 2008 at some of its earliest Marcellus Shale sites in Dimock Twp.

On June 3, off-road diesel spilled from a break in a fuel line to a drilling rig, ran down a hill and into a roadside swale and pooled in a flooded wetland near Meshoppen Creek.

On July 11, a dump truck driver working to build an access road to a well backed into a 1,000-gallon tank of off-road diesel, panicked and dragged the tank about 30 feet before it tipped over and spilled onto the ground. Crews dug pits and vacuumed up about 170 gallons of the visible diesel, then removed contaminated soil and stone from the site. When two of nine soil tests showed continued contamination, contractors dug a foot deeper and excavated more soil. A total of 272 tons of contaminated soil was taken from the site.

The company was fined $4,915.30 for the first spill after the site was cleaned up.

According to DEP records, Cabot was never fined for the second spill.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said the company “works hard to ensure that we have a plan in place to control and maintain any accidental release.”

DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY!


Posted By SPLASHDOWN to SPLASHDOWN! at 6/21/2010 11:46:00 AM

What PA residents think of Range Resources

Here is some excellent video of the meeting with range Resources that took place in Washington County, PA today. Thanks txSharon!

http://txsharon.blogspot.com/2010/04/7-videos-what-pa-residents-thinks-of.html

Heartbreaking Stories Warn New Yorkers of What May Be in Store if the State OKs Controversial Gas Drilling

Written by Maura Stephens

…Most of these Pennsylvanians told us they rue the day they signed the gas leases. Some of them “inherited” gas leases — or bought property on which there was a mineral rights lease they were unaware of — and now are paying the consequences.
Their stories were heartbreaking. This is some of what they told us, including several things not mentioned in other articles I’ve read about fracking:
1) There is no longer any privacy on their own property.
Posted signs are a thing of the past; there’s no way to guarantee that anyone would pay attention to them. The gas drillers have access to leased land 24/7, 365 days a year, because there is always something to deal with on a gas pad. The land owners no longer have privacy or the ability to walk at will on their own property. One woman told us she and her teenage daughter feel like prisoners in their home. They used to walk around in bathing suits or pajamas in the privacy of their 100-plus-acre farm. That’s no longer an option — they stay inside with the blinds drawn even on nice days because they never know when and where a stranger will be walking around the property.
2) The gas companies can pretty much do as they please.
There is no consultation with the landowners about placement or size of the pads, or the numerous roads that have to be cut into the property, or drainage fields, or pond sites, or planned building sites. One farmer, who had dreamed of this since his elder son’s birth in 1983, gave his son and new daughter-in-law three acres on which to build a house, on a lovely corner of his farm. The newlyweds were just about to begin building the home they’d designed when the gas company decided to drill on the very same spot. The family had no way of fighting the gas company, which refused to change its drilling location. The young man and his bride were forced to rent an apartment in town. Subsequently the drilling contaminated the well that provided drinking water to the family and farm animals. And although the site did not yield gas, the land is no longer usable for farming or placing a home. The farmer, incidentally, had bought the land in the early 1980s without realizing a gas company held mineral rights to it via a 1920s lien.
3) The gas companies do not respect the land.
The gas companies have in numerous documented cases torn out mature stands of trees — 20, 30, 60, 80 years old — leaving the tree carcasses scattered about the land. “These guys just don’t care,” one landowner told us, close to tears. “They treated my farm like a garbage dump. They moved their bowels in the woods and left their filthy toilet paper behind. They threw all their rubbish around — plastic bottles, McDonald’s bags, you name it. I used to always kept this place manicured. It’s been my pride and joy. But now, it’s a rubbish heap. I’m still finding junk they left around, long after the fracking ended.”
4) There’s light and noise nonstop.
“No amount of money can buy you sufficient sleep,” said a farmer. “It’s bright and loud, all the time. Not that I’d sleep anyway. All I do is worry about the land and the water and what we are going to do.”
5) Their property has lost its value.
“We can’t drink our water,” said the same farmer. “We can’t reclaim the land. They’re putting my farm out of business. The land is worthless. Nobody would want it, like this.”
6) They can no longer fish in their streams and ponds.
So many of these waterways have been poisoned by fracking waste, runoff, spillage, or dumping, that fishers are afraid to eat the fish they catch. One farmer, who told us he’d planned to stock his farm pond with seven varieties of fish that he would raise and sell to other landowners, has lost this income stream because his pond was polluted by fracking.
7) The water is dangerously unsafe.
“A primary reason we chose to live in this area,” says a woman from central New York, “is that is has abundant clean water. The western half or two-thirds of the United States, and the Southeast — the entire rest of the country — has precious little water. But we have always had plenty of fresh, safe, available water. Now we are threatened with gas fracturing, or ‘fracking.’ The contaminants released in the fracking process are carcinogenic (cancer-inducing) and even radioactive. Everyone around here depends on our wells for safe drinking water. Now how can we ever drink our water again? City water is no safer.”
To read the full blog, click here

http://chenangogreens.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=0&Itemid=70&limit=9&limitstart=18

Split Estate Free Showing at Mansfield University

Professor Russell Dodson at Mansfield University has arranged a free, public showing of the documentary ‘Split Estate’, on the risks and dangers of natural gas drilling. Our Tioga County Planner, Jim Weaver will be present to take questions.

Tell everyone you know!

Time: Monday, March 29th at 7PM.

Place: 153 Grant Science Center, Mansfield University