Pennsylvania Seeks $4.5 Million from Drilling Company for Water Pollution

State Action Against EQT Production Company Followed Investigation by Environmental Integrity Project.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection yesterday announced that it is seeking a $4.5 million penalty against a drilling company, EQT Production, for a major pollution spill from a fracking wastewater pond into a trout stream and groundwater in the north central part of the state.

The state action follows an investigation by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) into the 2012 spill from a leaky, six million gallon impoundment in Tioga County, which had more than 100 holes and tears in its liner. In April 2014, EIP and allies sent a letter to the state agency asking the state to take enforcement action because of the pollutants found in the tributary to Rock Run, including arsenic, barium, copper, manganese, chloride, strontium, iron, lithium, and lead.

“We are encouraged by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s decisions to take a strong enforcement stand against EQT for what we concluded were significant and serious violations that threatened public health and caused significant environmental harm,” said Mary Greene, Senior Managing Attorney at EIP.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a press release yesterday that said that when EQT originally proposed the impoundment in an application for a state permit, the company asserted that the pond would be used to store only fresh water. However, the company later decided to use the facility to hold polluted wastewater from fracking. This was a problem, according to DEP, in part because the state had required no monitoring wells or leak detection around the pond, believing it would be used only for clean water.

An inspection of the pond, performed in June of 2012, found 75 to 100 holes in the liner, with the estimate later raised. Monitoring of a nearby tributary to Rock Run, a high quality trout fishing stream, revealed contamination, and groundwater was also polluted.

EIP asked for state action on these problems its April 2014 letter to the state agency.

“EQT fails to recognize the ongoing environmental harm from the significant amount of waste released by its leaking six million gallon impoundment,” Acting DEP Secretary Dana Aunkst said in the press release. “This action was necessary because the company has not been cooperative during our investigation. The department does not tolerate this unacceptable attitude toward compliance and proper protection of Pennsylvania’s environment.”

View the complaint.

View the associated exhibits filed with the Board.

Read the DEP press release.

To read EIP’s press release from April 2014.

Read the April 2014 letter, with attachments, to Pennsylvania and EPA officials.