WILLIAMSPORT – The state Department of Environmental Protection is continuing to investigate a large hydraulic fracturing fluid spill at an XTO Energy natural gas well pad in Penn Township, Lycoming County, which was first discovered last week.
â€œThis spill was initially estimated at more than 13,000 gallons by the company and has polluted an unnamed tributary to Sugar Run and a spring,â€ said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Nels Taber. â€œThere are also two private drinking water wells in the vicinity that will be sampled for possible impacts.â€
A DEP inspector discovered the spill while inspecting the well pad. The inspector found the bottom valve on a 21,000-gallon fracking fluid tank was open and discharging fluid off the well pad. No one else was present at the pad, which has one producing Marcellus Shale well.
The DEP inspector was able to close the valve and XTO Energy officials were immediately contacted about the spill. The company has not provided any explanation for the open valve.
XTO Energy hired cleanup contractor Minuteman Response, which has been on-site for several days vacuuming spilled fluids and mobilizing equipment to excavate soil. A fence also has been installed to prevent a neighbor\’s cattle from grazing in the impacted area of the pasture.
DEP inspectors have collected samples of nearby soil and surface water. Initial field meter readings showed elevated levels of conductivity and salinity in the spring and unnamed tributary.
Conductivity measures water\’s ability to carry an electric current, while salinity measures the dissolved salt content in water. Elevated levels of both are indications that spilled fracking fluid is present.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of injecting millions of gallons of water, some sand and chemicals into shale formations thousands of feet underground at extremely high pressures to stimulate the release of natural gas.
A notice of violation letter will be sent to XTO Energy this week and the company will be required to remediate the site properly, according to the DEP.
Copyright: Times Leader