Lawsuit claims unreported spill at Marcellus drilling site in Amwell

December 11, 2013
Rep. Jesse White

A Washington County judge will be asked next week to order a Texas-based water hauler to turn over photographs it may have of an alleged spill at an Amwell Township Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling site.

The motion will be presented by attorney John Smith, who is representing a group of neighbors suing Range Resources over claims they were sickened by the Yeager drilling operation, court records show.

As part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, Smith received documents from Red Oak Water Transfer indicating there was a leak of 500 barrels of flowback water at the site in 2010, and a subsequent cover-up of what took place. Other court documents in the case show a company executive denying the spill took place and alleging that the story had been fabricated by a disgruntled employee to get a coworker in trouble.

The information prompted state Rep. Jesse White Tuesday to ask state Attorney General Kathleen Kane to investigate the matter. Her spokesman, Joe Peters, said the law prevents her from investigating such cases unless they are referred to her by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

John Poister, spokesman for the DEP in Pittsburgh, said the department is conducting an internal investigation of its records to see if there was a spill reported at the drilling site off McAdams Road in Amwell.

The information the DEP has found thus far in its files does not correspond with the allegations that surfaced in the lawsuit, Poister said.

The plaintiffs in the long-running case are Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney; Beth, John and Ashley Voyles; and Loren and Grace Kiskadden.

Last month, President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca ordered 40 companies Range brought to the property to provide Smith with every chemical they used in the drilling process.

Red Oak, which now operates as Rockwater Energy Solutions, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

White also forwarded his complaint to Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone. Assistant District Attorney Joe Zupancic said Vittone’s office would review the matter, but it would be more a matter for the state to investigate.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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