Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Trick: Wastewater Spill in Hopewell

photo courtesy R. Donnan
Yesterday morning (yes, Halloween) Range Resources reported a spill of “treated” wastewater near a drill site in Hopewell Township, Washington County, PA – just a bit west of Pittsburgh. The 16,800-gallon spill (400 barrels) happened at 9:20 am when a contractor tried to move a temporary water line using an excavator.

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.


  1. Did DEP go far enough downstream to really see the effects on aquatic life or test where the water went in? I know what my guess is.

  2. I'm confused. Who is reporting the fish kills? This article purports to quote the DEP. Yet, The DEP testing referred to in the linked articles indicated no impact on environment or wildlife.
    Also, Invertebrates and fish die naturally all the time. The use of the phrase "Fish Kill" indicates large numbers of dead fish. But there doesn't seem to be any definitive quantity of dead fish reported that would be indicative of a man-made event. It just refers to non-descript evidence. Roughly how many fish were found lying dead in the creek?

  3. Using advanced technology, it is now possible to re-use sewage effluent for drinking water, although Singapore is the only country to implement such technology on a production scale in its production of New Water. Waste Water Testing