|photo courtesy R. Donnan|
The pipeline was installed to deliver treated flowback fluids to the impoundment at the well site. There it would be mixed with fresh water, stored, and recycled in future fracking operations. Though no fluids were being pumped through the pipeline at the time of the accident, there was residual fluid from a previous transfer.
The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) told the press that the spill area was ditched and contained… then added that some recycled fluids entered a high-quality stream. Although DEP didn’t know how much waste fluid had reached the creek, a spokesperson said that preliminary tests showed no impact on aquatic life in the water.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella called the incident “unacceptable”. But he’s said that before, because this is the third spill Range has had in as many years.
Back on May 26, 2009 Range spilled nearly 5,000 gallons of wastewater, including hydraulic fracturing fluids, into a tributary of Cross Creek Lake. DEP reported that the creek, a protected watershed near Pittsburgh, was “impacted by sediments all the way down to the lake and there was also evidence of a fish kill as invertebrates and fish were observed lying dead in the creek.”
That spill happened when the company was pumping fluids from the hydraulic fracturing of three wells through a six-inch pipe to a “DEP-approved” impoundment. Along the way, two screws along the pipe came loose. Pitzarella chalked it up to vandalism.
Range spilled another 10,000 gallons or more of flowback fluids in yet another accident that same year. That spill also resulted in a fish kill.
Pitzarella said that Range found “…both of these to be unfortunate and unacceptable.” But, he added, neither spill had any negative impacts on health or property.