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Diesel fuel spill in Greene County spurs state investigation

The state is investigating a Pittsburgh-based Marcellus shale-drilling company's diesel fuel spill that flowed from a Greene County well into Patterson Run unbeknownst to local officials.

Downtown-based EQT Corp., the parent company of Equitable Gas Co., spilled 480 gallons of diesel in Center Township in December, according to John Poister, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. The spill occurred when diesel fuel was being transferred out of a temporary fuel tank, he said.

The spill is coming to light nearly three months later because, Poister said, the DEP is not required to notify local municipalities or alert the public. The entity responsible for the spill in such cases is required to notify the DEP, which EQT did, Poister said.

"Apparently, a worker was emptying fuel from this tank into a smaller tank at night and didn't realize it was leaking," said Poister.

However, officials in Center and Morris, where Patterson Run is located, said they should have been notified by either the DEP or company.

"Absolutely ... the township and the fire department should have been notified of that in case it was a problem," said Edward "Butch" Deter, chairman of the township's board of supervisors, who is also president of the Center Township Volunteer Fire Department, Co. 91.

The DEP began its investigation Dec. 8, the day of the spill, and has issued the company a notice of violation. A fine likely will follow, Poister said.

Most of the spill was cleaned within 24 hours using soil excavation, liquid vacuuming and absorbent pads, EQT spokeswoman Karla Olsen said.

The company also notified the National Response Center, which is the federal point of contact for reporting oil and other chemical spills, and local landowners, Olsen said.

"Soil and stream sample results collected Dec. 9 indicated that no impacts remained in the excavated areas or the surface waters downstream from the spill location," she said.

The DEP has reviewed EQT's samples and will return to take more soil samples before the investigation is complete, Poister said.

Spills of this nature are not unusual, he said. But, "anytime there is a contamination of a high-quality waterway ... that's taken very, very seriously," he said.

EQT leases the Center property from a private owner, Deter said.

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