A “broken” leak-detection monitor beneath the Jon Day impoundment led to a significantly larger breach of brine water than originally estimated as cleanup crews continue work to remove as much as 10,000 tons of contaminated soil from the Amwell Township site, state environmental regulators said Friday.
Heavy rain this week hampered the cleanup because crews must stop work when storms approach, cover the entire site and then vacuum up the rain water using a specialized truck before continuing the soil removal.
By Friday afternoon, workers removed about 5,800 tons of contaminated soil from the Range Resources impoundment near Walker Road since a tear in the liner was discovered April 16, with the amount expected to climb even higher, state Department of Environmental spokesman John Poister said.
“Our inspectors have voiced some very strong concerns to Range about this,” Poister said. “Range is responding. They’re doing the job, but they have a big job over there.”
The impoundment was last used by Range to store the salty brine water 11 months ago, leading to concerns by the DEP about how long it was leaking into the ground and remained unnoticed. Poister said the leak-detection monitor never alerted the company of the problem because it was “crushed” either during construction or filling of the impoundment.
“We obviously have a lot of questions about why the leak-detection system was compromised, or broken, and why it wasn’t discovered sooner,” Poister said. “If it was undetected here, could it be undetected elsewhere? We’re concerned about that and have voiced those concerns to Range about these impoundments.”
Even with the increased amount of contaminated soil at the site, he said the DEP has found no evidence that it reached groundwater or affected residents near the area.
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the amount of soil needed to be removed is not surprising because the weight of the water likely spread the brine across the site. He added the site has “older engineering practices” that the company is upgrading, and they will continue to monitor other impoundments for problems.
“Obviously no one is happy when something like this is discovered, but rather than presume all of equipment is properly functioning we still require routine and scheduled maintenance,” Pitzarella said in an email.
He called the situation a “minor impact” on the soil that has not affected air or water quality.
However, Poister said inspectors are periodically monitoring the site to check progress and take soil samples for testing. Neither he nor Pitzarella could estimate when the cleanup by Weavertown Environmental Group of Collier Township would be completed.
The DEP in April issued a notice of violation for Range’s solid-waste management and its failure to contain pollutants and production fluids.