Drilling violations in Pa. counties

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Guernsey Co. well rig
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

PITTSBURGH — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has collected a $1.7 million civil penalty prescribed in a consent order and agreement with Energy Corporation of America for violations at 17 well sites in Cumberland, Jefferson, and Whiteley townships, Greene County and Goshen Township, Clearfield County.

Violations

The violations for which ECA was penalized include failure to properly contains fluids in onsite pits, unauthorized discharge of industrial waste into groundwater, unauthorized disposal of residual waste, failure to restore the pits and well sites, and operating solid waste storage, treatment, and transfer facilities without permits.

At the Mohr A & B well site in Cumberland Township, Greene County, a substantial leak killed vegetation, impacted groundwater, and one natural spring used for drinking water.

The release did not impair any streams or waterways.

The property owner with the spring was provided with a temporary water supply and permanent water supply restoration is underway.

Following this violation, DEP’s investigation from 2015 to 2017 uncovered incidents of leaking pits and wastewater impoundments at several of ECA’s unconventional well sites and forensically demonstrated ECA’s mismanagement of drilling, flowback and produced fluids.

DEP’s investigation revealed ECA transferred drilling fluids from well site to well site long after the last well at these sites was completed, making these sites an unlawful waste transfer station.

These fluids were stored in onsite pits for more than nine months after the completion of drilling, in violation of site restoration regulations.

In October 2016, new regulations (Chapter 78a) specifically foreclosed the use of temporary storage pits and required the closure of onsite pits at unconventional well sites.

Additionally, DEP determined that ECA transferred, stored, and treated fluids at these sites despite the fact that the fluids were not used for any well development or drilling activity at the sites.

Waste fluids have been removed from all sites. The consent order and agreement sets a schedule for the removal of sludge and accumulated precipitation that exists in onsite pits at the five sites where pits remain.

ECA submitted an environmental pad assessment and remediation plan that detailed how it will assess and remediate environmental impacts.

The agreement provides additional stipulated penalties if ECA fails to comply with its obligations in a timely manner. Remediation work is ongoing.

Remedies

The agreement outlines sites for priority remediation and orders ECA to do the following:

  • Close open onsite pits by removing and reusing or properly disposing of all fluids, removing and properly disposing of liners, sludge, and impacted soils, managing precipitation, and managing residual solids;
  • Monitor on a quarterly basis any water supplies within 3,000 feet of the well pads with open pits and manager precipitation into the pits until the pits are closed;
  • Provide DEP with written records of reuse, disposal, or treatments of all fluids, waste, and soils removed from the sites;
  • Restore all well sites with open onsite pits; and
  • Assess and remediate all sites with open or closed pits according to the Land Recycling Act or Act 2 standards.

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