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Amwell wastewater site to be shut down

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Range Resources plans to close a Marcellus gas well wastewater impoundment at the center of a two-year legal battle over environmental complaints in Amwell in Washington County.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the drilling company's plan and expects to respond this week or next, agency spokesman John Poister said on Tuesday. Range submitted a closing plan to the department in March, even though state rules require companies to file plans only before getting a permit to open, not to close an impoundment.

“Because of the attention paid to it, I think Range felt they had to go above and beyond in their efforts to close the impoundment,” Poister said.

The Fort Worth company, which has a headquarters in Cecil, would not say why it decided to close its Yeager impoundment in Amwell, or why it submitted additional plans.

“We have been in discussions with the DEP for several months on reclaiming the impoundment,” spokesman Mark Windle wrote in an email. “Earlier this year, we voluntarily submitted the closure plan for the location, to provide additional engineering details to the DEP. The timeline is dependent upon the weather and other operational factors.”

DEP officials are comparing the latest plans to what Range submitted when it received a state permit in 2010, Poister said.

In 2012, several families living near the man-made pond and a related well pad sued Range and other companies involved in the site, claiming they've endured health problems and pollution. Range denied their claims.

The case led to court orders requiring Range to disclose chemicals used during drilling and related operations.

The families' attorney, John M. Smith, could not be reached. The case remains in the discovery phase of proceedings, with a hearing scheduled Aug. 12 before Common Pleas President Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca.

State records show the DEP twice cited Range for pollution violations at the impoundment, in April and in 2010. Records list more than 100 inspections without violations.

Drilling companies use impoundments to store water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing shale in deep wells, and to hold “flowback” fluids that come up the well before recycling or disposal.

Once regulators approve the closure plan, Range will have to follow a standard protocol that involves “intensive testing” of land and water around and beneath the holding area, and returning the land it to its original state, Poister said.

If testing finds contamination, Range must remove and replace fouled soil and restore the land's landscape and contours.

Range is removing and replacing more than 11,000 tons of soil contaminated by fluid that leaked from its John Day impoundment facility, also in Amwell.

Township officials could not be reached.

Poister said Range has not indicated it has plans to close John Day once it remediates the land.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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