PITTSBURGH – The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has collected a $1.7 million civil penalty prescribed in a consent order and agreement with Energy Corp. of America (ECA) for violations at 17 well sites in Cumberland, Jefferson and Whiteley Townships, Greene County, and Goshen Township, Clearfield County.
The violations for which ECA was penalized include: failure to properly contains fluids in on-site 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.
“Laws and regulations on the books and strong permitting are in place to protect the public and our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
“When we uncovered systemic violations of proper handling practices of flow-back fluids, our compliance team conducted a thorough investigation to hold the operator accountable.”
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 under way.
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, flow-back and produced fluids.
DEP’s investigation revealed that 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 on-site pits for over nine months after the completion of drilling, in violation of site restoration regulations.
In October of 2016, new regulations (Chapter 78a) specifically foreclosed the use of temporary storage pits and required the closure of on-site 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 on-site 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. The agreement outlines sites for priority remediation and orders ECA to do the following:
- Close open on-site 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 on-site pits; and
- Assess and remediate all sites with open or closed pits according to the Land Recycling Act or Act 2 standards.
For more information, click here to view the consent order and agreement.