State environmental regulators are investigating a leak at a third Range Resources water impoundment in Washington County after workers found holes in two liners inside the company’s Yeager centralized impoundment earlier this year.
The state Department of Environmental Protection cited Range July 24 for holes in liners that regulators said allowed chloride to seep into the ground in several areas near the impoundment along McAdams Road in Amwell Township.
Range Resources workers sent a site assessment report to the DEP May 14 acknowledged they found holes in both the top and bottom liners near the northeast side of the impoundment. Other holes found during previous inspections by Range workers were also noted in that report, though it was not known when those problems occurred.
Elevated chloride levels were found in five areas near holes DEP officials said “typically indicate flowback or frac fluids release to soil.” The company was cited for its management of residual waste because it did not keep fluids contained to the impoundment, according to the DEP.
“The presence of liner holes and corresponding elevated chloride areas indicate that the fluids in the impoundment leaked,” DEP water quality specialist supervisor John Carson wrote to Range in the notice of violation.
DEP spokesman John Poister said inspectors are investigating the extent of the leak and whether any soil needs removed to remediate the site.
“We don’t know the extent of the contamination, but I’m sure we’ll learn more as we work with Range and they advance the plan to close the impoundment,” Poister said.
Range Resources notified DEP in March that it intended to close the impoundment, which was at the center of a two-year legal battle by nearby residents to get the company to disclose all fluids and chemicals at the site. The DEP is currently reviewing Range’s plans on how it will remediate the site and is expected to make a decision Friday, which is the same day the drilling company must respond to the notice of violation.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in an email statement the company hopes to close the Yeager impoundment “in the near future” and there is no evidence the situation affected nearby homes or residents.
“We recognize that we’ve had some issues at the location, which can occur in our work,” Pitzarella said.
It’s the third water impoundment in Washington County operated by the company 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.
Poister said each incident will be investigated separately. He added it is too early to speculate what fine Range might face for the apparent leak at Yeager.
“We’re in the midst of an investigation,” Poister said. “We are trying to determine how widespread the problem is at that impoundment.”
In addition to not properly monitoring chloride levels near the impoundment and containing liquids, the company also faces another notice of violation because it failed to provide “as-built plans” to the DEP immediately following construction.