Photo from WVDEP
Back in December 2014, inspectors from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection went to Harrison County to check out a reported spill at a fracking wastewater processing facility operated by Antero Resources. The company had reported that the spill was contained and that cleanup was complete.
But when WVDEP got there, here’s what they found:
During the inspection, however, WVDEP personnel observed and documented that the reported spill from a leak in the frac tank was in progress, cleanup was not completed, and the wastewater was leaking outside of the dedicated container system.
It was also noted during the inspection that a second source of spillage (Spill Two) was occurring near the western footprint of the Water Process Facility near a small unnamed tributary of Limestone Run, and the soil in the area was dark and had a petroleum odor.
Agency officials said that lab results of a soil sample taken on the eastern bank of the stream (the side where the spill occurred) revealed “elevated levels” of total chloride, total strontium, total barium, and diesel range organics, as compared to a sample on the opposite bank of the stream.
That’s all according to a recent “Consent Order” that Antero has agreed to and that WVDEP officials have released for public comment.
And there’s more … In a follow-up inspection two days later, WVDEP officials:
… Observed that, in addition to the two spills observed and documented during the December 16, 2014, inspection, another spill (Spill Three) had occurred. Further investigation revealed that this spill had not been reported. WVDEP personnel observed another spill (Spill Four) in an area down gradient of the offload manifold covered with straw. Further investigation revealed that a tank truck had spilled its contents during off-loading activities, a spill containment system had not been deployed, the contents had migrated off the pad and onto the ground, straw had been deployed to soak up the contents, the soil was stained black, and the spill had not been reported.
The Antero-WVDEP consent order recounts a meeting in which agency and company officials discussed a variety of issues related to these spills, resulting in an agreement for Antero to provide site investigation plans for each of the spill sites, spelling out plans for additional investigations of impacts and cleanups.
Antero provided preliminary reports in January 2015, and then told WVDEP that final plans would be submitted by April 1. On April 7, Antero asked WVDEP for an extension of the deadline — which it had already missed — until May 15.
In the meantime, though, Antero had reported at least four other spills at the site.
“It had gotten away from them,” said Jeremy Bandy, chief inspector for the environmental enforcement section at WVDEP’s Division of Water and Waste Management. “It was just continual. They had some problems out there.”
In May 2015, Antero submitted its proposed site investigation plans, and a month later, WVDEP “responded … the plan was not approved, additional revisions were requested … and a detailed list of comments was provided.” It’s not clear what happened after that, but the consent order notes that in August 2015, WVDEP issued a new permit governing industrial stormwater runoff from the site.
Interestingly, though, the consent order also requires Antero to, within 30 days of the effective date of the order, provide a report to the state that “identifies all unpermitted sites in West Virginia for which coverage” under the state’s industrial stormwater permit is required.
And then, within 15 days after that, Antero must complete permit applications for the sites on that report.
Also within 30 days, Antero has to submit a proposed “plan of corrective action” for complying with its permit and “pertinent laws and rules.”
The fine involved for all of this? Antero and WVDEP had agreed to a penalty of $11,190.