DEP issues violations to Range for impoundment leak

April 28, 2014
A truck carrying contaminated soil leaves the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township Monday as Range Resources works to clean up a leak discovered at the site earlier this month. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Environmental regulators cited Range Resources for the major leak discovered earlier this month at the company’s John Day water impoundment in Amwell Township, where it’s removing “hundreds of tons” of contaminated soil from the site.

The notice of violation from the state Department of Environmental Protection comes as investigators work to determine when the leak happened and how it went undetected for months until Range reported the problem to regulators April 16.

John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the impoundment was last used by Range to store wastewater 10 months ago and it was drained by the company since that time. That timeline indicates the tear in the impoundment’s liner occurred before then, meaning the soil likely was contaminated for the past year, if not longer.

“The situation here that makes it unusual is that they did take it out of service and it was no longer being used. I think that probably delayed the discovery of the leak,” Poister said. “That’s why we say it will be hard to determine how much leaked out, because it happened such a long time ago.”

The company hired an environmental contractor to oversee the removal of the soil. A stream of tri-axle dump trucks was seen leaving the site near Walker Road Monday. Poister said Range has permits to take the soil to landfills in Arden, Imperial and Rostraver Township.

Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company is reviewing the situation and is not sure how or when the leak occurred.

“It would be purely speculative at this point,” he said. “It’s an older impoundment and was used prior to the leak-detection systems that Range pioneered.”

But the situation is raising concerns from the DEP about how Range did not find evidence of a problem earlier and why leak-detection monitors on site did not alert the company of a breach in the liner. Poister said environmental regulators “made it clear to Range and other companies” they have a responsibility to the public and environment to prevent these situations from occurring.

“There are no guarantees in anything, but we want to make sure the best possible procedures are in place and that there are redundancies with liners and functioning leak-detection systems,” Poister said. “In this particular case there was a breakdown, but we don’t believe it affected ground water or anything off of the impoundment.”

Poister said the company was issued the notice of violation for its solid waste management and its failure to contain pollutants and production fluids. He added the company likely will be fined, but it is too early to determine what the civil penalty will be.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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