Rep. White files Right-to-Know request with DEP

April 6, 2013

State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, has filed a Right-to-Know request calling for the state Department of Environmental Protection to release records and permit information regarding a water impoundment in Cecil Township.

White wants to know if there was a leak at the Range Resources-owned Worstell Water Impoundment on Swihart Road, which is permitted to store wastewater from fracking the company has performed in other areas.

White also wants Range Resources to explain how and when the impoundment, which township supervisors believed would be for fresh water only, based on the company’s initial application to the DEP, was converted to a wastewater impoundment.

“There are a couple of important questions, including whether or not there was a leak, and what was done about it. That’s a big deal because if there was a leak, it was a leak of water that contains hazardous materials,” said White, who is worried that leaking water from the impoundment could end up in a nearby stream.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said there was no leak at the impoundment, which he said has been used to store recycled water that contains minerals like salt and iron.

“There was never a leak, never, ever, at the Worstell Impoundment,” said Pitzarella.

White became concerned after reports surfaced that the DEP became aware of a possible leak at a Sept. 26 compliance meeting attended by several representatives from Range, DEP and CEC Inc.

If there was a leak, White wants to know how DEP handled it and if and when it was repaired. He has requested several records including minutes, information and correspondence related to the Sept. 26 meeting, phone logs for those who attended the meeting for 90 days before and after the meeting, and any citations or notices of violations DEP might have issued regarding the impoundment.

DEP Spokesman John Poister said he is confident there was no leak at the impoundment, which has a 15 million-gallon capacity. According to Poister, in November 2011, the DEP saw a spike in the total amount of dissolved solids – essentially salts, he said – at the impoundment, which can indicate a leak. Poister said an investigation showed the leak came from a waste tank, not the impoundment. A defective valve in a waste tank resulted in 30 gallons of frackwater escaping from the tank.

“We thought it might be a leak; it was not. (Range Resources) cleaned up the gravel below, found (the water) didn’t reach the ground, fixed the valve in the tank that was malfunctioning,” said Poister. “The impoundment, to the best of our knowledge, is fine. We’re satisfied with what the company is doing there.”

Pitzarella said groundwater monitoring wells showed no impact on water quality and no environmental impact.

White is not surprised by the responses from Range Resources and the DEP.

“Unfortunately, I’ve had enough experiences with the DEP, Range Resources and Matt Pitzarella not to trust what they’re saying. They’ve blown any level of trust they’ve strived for,” said White. ”This isn’t a witch hunt. We all deserve a chance to find out what happened. I’ll let the documents speak for themselves.”

Cecil Township Supervisor Andy Schrader said he had not been aware of a potential leak until the last couple of days. Whether the leak occurred in the impoundment or a waste tank, he believes the township should have been notified.

“If there was a leak, we need to know. This really concerns me. This raises a lot of questions that have to be answered. If it was any other business that had toxic material leaking, we’d want to know what the source was,” he said, questioning the company’s transparency and calling the use of the term “recycled water” a word game.

He would like for supervisors to hold a public meeting with DEP and Range Resources to discuss what happened at the impoundment.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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