Illegal brine disposal ends with fines

SALEM, Ohio — Fines have been levied against two oil and gas companies related to Utica shale drilling in Ohio after one is accused of intentionally dumping brine water into a pond on a farm in St. Clairsville in May.

Gulfport Energy and Harch Environmental Resources Inc. have both entered agreements with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after brine contamination and disposal issues.

Harch Environmental Resources

Harch was issued a brine transportation certificate in March after receiving an application and a plan that called for brine disposal at an injection well in Muskingum County.
But by May 16, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency had received a complaint alleging that Harch Environmental was disposing of brine and other wastes associated with the development of oil and gas resources by disposing of them on a farm in St. Clairsville.

ODNR investigation

The ODNR visited the property where the alleged disposal occurred, and inspectors took samples and photographs and documented the conditions at the site. Following the investigation, the division found that Harch Environmental disposed of what appeared to be brine and other wastes from its brine hauling trucks on the ground at the property.
According to the compliance agreement between both ODNR and Harch, the disposal resulted in the brine and other wastes to flow over the ground of the property, down a hill and into a pond.

Hauling logs

In addition, ODNR reviewed brine hauling truck logs from April through July 2013 and determined that Harch was transporting brine to locations not listed on Harch Environmental’s disposal plan.

According to the agreement, Harch agreed that they violated several parts of the Ohio Revised Code, including causing brine and other fluids to be placed in surface water and up on the ground in such quantities that damaged or could damage the environment.

Fined $100,000

As part of the agreement, Harch was fined $100,000 and agrees to dispose of brine only at the locations listed on its approved plan.
They also agreed to suspend all brine hauling operations in Ohio for 30 days, which began Sept. 5.
Harch is also not permitted to temporarily store, recycle, treat or process brine water without prior approval of the ODNR. After Jan. 1, 2014, Harch will be required to apply for a permit to temporarily store, recycle, treat and or process brine.

Submit logs every day

In addition, Harch must submit all of its brine hauling logs to the ODNR on a daily basis for six months.
If the ODNR determines that Harch has failed to meet the conditions in the agreement at any time during the 19 months after the agreement was signed, then Harch Environmental’s certification will be revoked and they will be prohibited from re-applying under a different name and fined $10,000. In addition, they will be forced to forfeit the full $15,000 bond.

Gulfport Energy

An oil and gas driller also found itself in hot water after its drilling pads were found to be leaking brine liquids.
According to court documents, Gulfport Energy has been granted permits in Harrison County on the BK Stephens pad in Moorefield Township; the Gustina -Bear pad in Moorefield Township; the Clay pad in Freeport Township; and the Ryser pad in Moorefield Township.

In addition, they have been drilling in Belmont County at these locations: The Eagle Creek pad in Union Township; the Inherst pad in Somerset Township and the McCort pad in Somerset Township.

Notification

On May 31, Gulfport notified ODNR that it had an ongoing brine contamination problem occurring at the Gulfport pads. ODNR inspectors visited the Gulfport pads and collected water samples, captured photographs of the contamination and performed testing.
ODNR confirmed that brine and other oil and gas drilling related fluids were escaping from underneath the containment liner of the Gulfport pads. The evidence collected found that the fluids were contaminating the soil and ground.

Faulty construction

Gulfport Energy was charged with violating four parts of the Ohio Revised Code, including failing to properly construct and maintain the dikes and pits at the Gulfport well sites.

As part of the conditions of the compliance agreement, Gulfport has agreed to complete a remediation plan for each Gulfport pad. In addition, an ODNR inspector and the chief of the oil and gas division must approve the compliance with the remediation plan before Gulfport can resume operations at any of its pads.

Fine

According to the compliance agreement, which was signed Sept. 9, Gulfport agrees to pay a fine of $250,000 and submit to the ODNR an engineered plan for each of its proposed drilling pads before it can continue operations at any well pad that is not listed in the agreement.
Gulfport also agreed to submit documents that show each fluid, including brine used in production operations, and the amount brought and taken from all the Gulfport pads.

If the ODNR chief determines that Gulfport failed to comply with the conditions set forth in this compliance agreement, he can suspend the company’s drilling and production operations in Ohio.

Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania is not without its own share of environmental mishaps in regards to drilling the in Marcellus or Utica shale.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General filed criminal charges against XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobile corporation in the Marcellus shale.
2010 incident. XTO Energy settled federal civil charges in July over a the discharge of more than 50,000 gallons of wastewater from storage tanks at a gas well site in Lycoming County in 2010.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, XTO agreed to a settlement over the federal civil charges by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and creating a plan to improve wastewater management practices.
The agreement included no admissions of liability.

Clean Streams Law

However, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane went ahead and filed the criminal charges related to the Clean Streams Law.
XTO is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.
XTO worked with federal and state agencies to clean up the discharge, which resulted in the removal of 3,000 tons of soil from the well site.
There is no court date set yet.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Recent News