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Accident at Elk Co. drill site spills 63,000 gallons of brine water

May 16, 2023

An inspector with the Department of Environmental Protection snapped a photo of the site of the brine spill at a Seneca Resources location in Jones Township, Elk County.

About 63,000 gallons of brine water was spilled at a Seneca Resources site in Jones Township, Elk County last month, and cleanup efforts are continuing.

Seneca Resources provided a copy of the narrative from the Department of Environmental Protection's report to The Era.

The spill happened at 7:30 a.m. April 26, and Seneca reported the spill to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Water Quality Solutions Specialist Rob Bechtel did the initial site inspection, along with Seneca's Jeff Passerello, the report indicated.

"The initial spill occurred when a cast iron gate valve failed as the operator was pumping production water to a stimulation operation on the E09-U pad. The pump was in operation at 50 barrels per minute," the report stated. "The operator was able to stop the leak eventually."

Estimates were that more than 1,500 barrels — more than 63,000 gallons — of production water spilled.

"Water spread out across the northern edge of the site, entering a perimeter ditch. It then ran around the edge ditch of the site and eventually entered an infiltration berm on the southwest corner of the location," the report read. "The operator brought in a pump and was able to collect a significant amount of liquid from this location."

The DEP report noted that Seneca has been collecting material from the site and is in the process of disposing of it properly.

"The operator has scraped up about 150 tons of material from the surface of the location and staged it on site to remove to the landfill. A pump is placed and the operator is using it to pump water collecting in the berm into tanks on site," the report continued. "Water does not appear to have passed the berm at this time, at least superficially.

"The operator has brought in ARM Group to do an initial analysis of the site and to take samples for removal to the landfill. Further inspection on this site will be done as necessary as cleanup continues."

On Thursday, Seneca spokesman Rob Boulware said, "We are continuing with remediation/ soil removal. And obviously working with all necessary agencies that oversee remediation activity."

The DEP requested a written report on the incident from the company by May 19, including a description of how the company plans to demonstrate attainment with Act 2 Land Recycling Program clean up standards.

The company received six violations from DEP for the accident.

Requests for comment from the DEP went unanswered.

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