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DEP investigating drilling wastewater leak in Washington County

| Friday, April 18, 2014, 10:15 p.m.

Salts from fracking water that seeped into the ground at a Range Resources facility in Washington County will land the energy company a violation notice and possibly a fine, the Department of Environmental Protection said on Friday.

“We, of course, are investigating,” DEP spokesman John Poister said of the incident Range reported this week. “We are unsure when it occurred or how much water got out.”

Range officials on Wednesday reported the leak at the John Day wastewater impoundment in Amwell. The discovery occurred as company employees were preparing to replace a liner in the inactive impoundment, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. White residue on a subliner prompted the company to test the soil, which showed higher than usual levels of salts, he said.

“It signaled there was some sort of discharge, either a leak or a spill,” Pitzarella said. “We don't know which yet. That is what we are investigating.”

Range and other companies are required to report spills of more than a gallon to the state, Pitzarella said.

He said the impoundment, built around 2008, has been out of use since being cleaned last summer. Wastewater typically contained in such impoundments is either treated or filtered and is similar in composition to brine used to melt snow and ice on roads during winter, he said,

There are no drinking water wells in the area, Pitzarella said.

“There's no reason to believe there is a notable threat to the environment and no threat to the community,” Pitzarella said. “We are not happy these things happen, but they are very rare when they do occur.”

A DEP inspector deemed the damage “significant,” Poister said. A meeting is scheduled between state and company officials, at which plans to prevent such a leak from happening again will be discussed — as will a potential fine, Poister said.

A notice of violation has been issued or soon will be, he said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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