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Groundwater contaminated at vacant Range Resources facility in Washington County

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 6:14 p.m.

A leak at a Range Resources facility in Washington County contaminated groundwater with low levels of chloride, likely leading to further citations against the energy company, the Department of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday.

“We need to do a lot more investigation to determine the extent of it,” said DEP spokesman John Poister. “Chloride is basically salt, which is corrosive. It kills vegetation, it kills other things. I wouldn't deem it as hazardous by itself, but nonetheless, it's something in the groundwater that doesn't belong there.”

Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company is not concerned about the contamination at the inactive John Day impoundment in Amwell. No drinking water wells are in the area, he said.

“There's no reason to believe there is a notable threat to the environment, and (there's) no threat to the community,” Pitzarella said.

A monitor on Friday found the groundwater to be contaminated. Range Resources employees discovered the leak in April as they were getting ready to perform scheduled maintenance and upgrades. White residue on a subliner prompted the company to test the soil, which showed higher than usual levels of salts.

Crews removed 10,000 to 12,000 tons of soil, but Poister estimated the amount could reach 15,000 before clean soil is put down.

“We're juggling a lot of balls down there because we've got so much soil contamination,” Poister said.

The DEP has issued Range Resources a notice of violation of the Clean Streams Law and Solid Waste Management Act, Poister said. Additional citations and fines are likely, he said.

Though Poister said crews discovered a tear in the double-layer plastic liner that keeps the fracking brine above ground, Pitzarella said there was no evidence of a tear. Poister also said workers found the leak detection system crushed beneath the ground. Pitzarella said it was damaged as the soil was being removed.

Poister could not estimate when the cleanup will be finished. Rain — or the threat of rain — has slowed the process, he said.

The impoundment, built around 2008, has been out of use since being cleaned last summer.

State records show the DEP fined Range Resources $120,050 in 2013. Six other companies were fined more.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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