Drilling leak leads to violation notice

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 5:12 p.m.

A gas-drilling site leaked sediment above a drinking-water reservoir in Westmoreland County, leading state environmental regulators to issue a violation notice.

A solid, non-toxic substance seeped out of a hillside above Beaver Run Reservoir in Bell when drillers nearby bored through a previously unknown spring on July 21, officials at the Department of Environmental Protection and the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said Wednesday. The substance was a grout that included the clay bentonite — a mix that drillers call liquid cement, officials said.

There were no signs that bentonite entered the drinking-water supply, according to testing done by the authority and a group the driller Consol Energy hired, said John Ashton, the authority's assistant manager. Consol officials told state inspectors they saw bentonite in the water, according to a preliminary report from the DEP, but state officials are reviewing the details, the department's regional spokesman John Poister said.

The company had workers dig a catch basin on the hillside and started pumping out the drainage within an hour after it noticed the problem, preventing impact on water supplies, Ashton said.

“What the public needs to know is that we're not worried about the water quality now,” Consol spokeswoman Lynn Seay said, calling the substance harmless. “We did everything we could to avert it” from entering the water supply.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

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