DEP agrees to hold meeting on Worstell impoundment
The state Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to hold a meeting with Cecil Township supervisors later this month to answer questions regarding the status of a controversial Marcellus Shale water impoundment.
Township Manager Don Gennuso indicated at a board meeting Monday that the meeting regarding the Worstell impoundment on Swihart Road would be open to “any residents that may have issues or concerns.” However, he also said that space is limited to 10 seats, which includes supervisors and DEP representatives, unless prior notice is given to the DEP.
DEP spokesman John Poister said Friday the meeting, to be held at the agency’s Pittsburgh headquarters, is not public and will be limited to the supervisors and a few guests. Casciola likened it to what he called an “agency meeting,” where supervisors would meet with DEP officials to discuss sewage issues.
Township Chairman Thomas Casciola was unsure Friday if additional guests had been invited to attend. DEP representatives told supervisors they would not attend a public meeting hosted by the township, according to Gennuso.
The Worstell impoundment, operated by Range Resources, has been a contentious issue since January, when the township mailed a letter to the DEP stating Range did not obtain proper approvals for the original use and construction of the impoundment. According to the letter, “Range Resources originally constructed the Worstell impoundment to serve gas wells on two well pads located beside the impoundment, but … Range Resources now desires to expand their use to serve wells located on other property and for general wastewater storage.”
Local residents have reported seeing a steady flow of trucks entering the property from the Swihart Road entrance, according to Casciola. Both Range Resources and state regulators have claimed the impoundment is used sporadically.
The township board requested a meeting with the DEP in May to address these questions, but did not receive a quick reply. At the board’s meeting Monday, supervisors tentatively scheduled the DEP meeting for 11 a.m. July 29 at the regional headquarters at 400 Waterfront Drive.
As to further conversation between the DEP and Cecil Township since the request was filed, Casciola said Friday, “We haven’t had any.”
Casciola wonders if the impoundment is servicing more wells than Range Resources originally planned and if the property should be restored to its natural state.
“We would like to know the answers to that, what is going on,” he said. “It seems like the DEP comments in the paper once in a while. We’re only hearing what we read in the paper, just like the residents are.”
Earlier this year, the DEP admitted that a defective valve in a holding tank at the site caused 30 gallons of recycled wastewater to escape in November 2011. Two months prior to that incident, Range discovered a hole in the top liner of the impoundment during an inspection, which led state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, to believe the company installed a faulty leak detection system.
White believes the impoundment “has turned into a hazardous dumping site for water from who knows where.”
A right-to-know request White filed with the DEP in April for records and permit information regarding the impoundment was partially denied. The DEP withheld 126 pages under attorney-client privilege and redacted 11 others, according to White. He is in the process of appealing that limitation through the state Office of Open Records.
White also hopes to have many questions answered, including how the impoundment was allowed to be constructed, why it has yet to be taken down and whether there is groundwater contamination. White said he was not aware the meeting was private, but he plans to attend unless “explicity told otherwise by the DEP.”
“It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of unanswered questions,” White said.