Marcellus drilling firm fined for wastewater overflow

Posted: August 17, 2010

A company drilling in the Marcellus Shale region in southwest Pennsylvania has been fined $97,350 for allowing "fracking" wastewater to overflow a pit and contaminate a watershed in Hopewell Township, Washington County.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said that Atlas Resources L.L.C., a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlas Energy Inc., based in Moon Township, Allegheny County, corrected the problem once it was discovered.

The wastewater was a by-product of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," during which millions of gallons of high-pressure water, sand, and chemicals are injected into a well to shatter the shale to release trapped natural gas.

In this case, the state said in a release, an unknown amount of water overflowed and ran into a tributary of Dunkle Run. The problem was discovered Dec. 5 and 6.

The company said that a water pump owned and operated by a contractor had activated improperly, and that the discharge consisted of about 90 percent fresh water and 10 recycled flowback water.

The spill violated Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Act and Solid Waste Management Act, as well as the state's Clean Streams Law.

"Atlas Energy and the Department of Environmental Protection have conducted numerous tests of the surrounding area, and the test results confirm there have been no negative environmental impacts as a result of the incident," the company said in a statement. "There are no further actions required of Atlas to remediate this incident, and we are currently reclaiming the site. Atlas is also holding the pump contractor accountable for this incident."    - Roslyn Rudolph

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