Unfolding Story: Flowback Leaked from Fracking Pit in Tioga County; Pit Liner Full of Holes
Two months after the problem was first discovered, we are finally able to report the general story of a massive leak in a “freshwater” impoundment in Duncan Township, Tioga County. Although labeled “freshwater,” the impoundment actually contained flowback, a toxic brew of fracking chemicals plus naturally occurring poisons like arsenic and radium 226, salts, and hydrocarbons.
Until Ralph Kisberg of the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA) spent the day in the DEP office reviewing reports from the scene and generously shared his work with us, all we had was this:
- The dates and official names of the violations at EQT’s Phoenix Resources well 590934, available with some digging at the DEP’s eFacts website
- DEP Spokesman Daniel Spadoni’s vague public statement:
“The department has been investigating a leaking flowback impoundment at EQT’s Phoenix Resources site for several weeks [...] Several seeps with elevated conductivity have been identified in the area surrounding the impoundment. Slightly elevated conductivity also was detected downstream in Rock Run. Water samples were collected but we have not yet received the results. “
Today, the RDA published a short story and Kisberg’s findings in its newsletter and its website.
So far, we’ve learned that:
- The “freshwater” impoundment, Impoundment 2, actually contained flowback from Phoenix Pad C.
- Various holes, seeps, and leaks were found starting May 8th, 2012, through June 11, 2012, after the impoundment was finally drained at the insistence of the DEP.
- The impoundment’s liner had between 75 and 100 holes.
- The first leak came from a line between the impoundment and Phoenix well pad S. The 12″ line had a known hole from its use at another site, but EQT forgot to patch the hole and never pressure-tested the line.
- Seeps and leaks occured upgradient of a wetland system and Rock Run, a trout fishing area, and resulting stressed vegetation was noted in the area.
- Finaly, on June 14th, public water samples were taken, but the DEP was only “under the impression” that EQT had alerted the Wellsboro Municipal Water Authority, and Duncan Township residents hadn’t been notified of the potential risk to their wells.
Because there are so many leaks and occurences to sort through, I have drafted a rough diagram of the impoundment and timeline. A few of the locations might be off, such as the channel and a few seeps, but I hope to get information for a final version by early next week. We’ll also have a more in-depth story on the surprising (though it shouldn’t be at this point), disappointing information in the DEP’s reports. By next week, maybe EQT will finally have gotten around to “expediting” to the DEP the results of the public water tests it did over three weeks ago.