Soil testing planned at Marcellus Shale impoundment

Range Resources is expects to begin closing its Yeager water impoundment on Monday

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Range Resources on Monday will begin closing its Yeager water impoundment in Amwell Township, where neighbors believe leaks in its liner contaminated the soil.

Both Range workers and the nearby residents involved in a lawsuit against the company will take separate soil samples for testing when the two liners are peeled back from the site in an attempt to learn if a wide variety of minerals and chemicals from fracking fluid leaked into the ground.

The state Department of Environmental Protection approved a plan from the Marcellus Shale driller last Friday to begin remediation of the site, and added several stipulations that include examining the liners for any rips or tears and testing for numerous contaminates.

Range notified the DEP in March that it intended to close the impoundment along McAdams Road, and was cited by the environmental agency last month for holes in the liner that allowed chloride to seep into the ground. The company acknowledged in May that it found holes in both the top and bottom liners in the northeast corner of the impoundment.

“They have the go-ahead to close the impoundment, but they must follow the conditions that we added,” DEP spokesman John Poister said.

John Smith, the lawyer representing several nearby residents who have been waging a two-year legal battle to get the company to disclose all fluids and chemicals used at the site, said a representative from his law office will be there Monday as work begins. He said his representatives will take their own soil samples to test them independently of what the DEP is requiring Range to do.

Upon pulling back the liners and prior to total “restoration activities” at the impoundment, the DEP ordered the company to test for aluminum, barium, bromide, boron, calcium, chloride, iron, lithium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, strontium, sulfate, vanadium, zinc and any other substances suspected to be in stored fluids at the site.

“We're interested in looking at (the testing) and the condition of the secondary liner,” Smith said. “Until they start doing the testing there, I don't think anyone will know.”

Range Resources provided a copy of the formal closure plan to the Observer-Reporter late Thursday afternoon. In the 98-page document, the company states it made the decision to drain the impoundment one year ago so it could eventually perform soil testing below the liners. It also says the company's decision to close the impoundment was voluntary, as was the formal closure plan submitted to DEP.

Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said some brine water, or chloride, reached the soil and groundwater monitors, but was adamant that regulators have found no evidence of groundwater contamination for nearby residents. He acknowledged the company likely will have to remove soil while remediating the site.

“We anticipate the removal of soil as part of this process to fully restore the location,” Pitzarella said. “Soil removal will be determined by further analysis and could range from a few hundred to possibly several thousand tons of soil, given the size of the impoundment.”

The Yeager facility is the third water impoundment in Washington County operated by Range Resources in which chloride, a key indicator of a spill or leak, was found near the site. High levels of chloride were discovered in the ground around the Jon Day impoundment, also located in Amwell, in April, prompting crews to work over the past four months to remove more than 10,000 tons of soil. Chloride also was recently found in groundwater near the Cecil 23 impoundment, formerly known as Worstell, prompting DEP inspectors to investigate that situation.

Range Resources Formal Closure Plan
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