XTO Energy Inc. charged with illegally discharging waste water from Marcellus Shale gas well site in Lycoming County
HARRISBURG - The Attorney General's Office today announced charges against a Pennsylvania subsidiary of ExxonMobil for illegally discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic waste water from a Marcellus Shale gas well site in Penn Township, Lycoming County.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane identified the company as XTO Energy Inc., 395 Airport Road, Indiana, Pa. Evidence and testimony was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed today.
XTO owns the Marquardt well site in Penn Township, which contains two natural gas wells on the site. During natural gas extraction, these wells produce waste water containing toxic substances, such as chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum. XTO allegedly stored this waste water in 21,000-gallon storage tanks at the Marquardt site for subsequent processing.
The grand jury found that XTO hired a company to recycle waste water at the Marquardt site from Nov. 4, 2010 through Nov. 11, 2010. After that one-week period, XTO directed that company to remove their processing equipment from the site and transport it to another XTO well site in West Virginia. However, XTO allegedly continued to transport and store gas well waste water at the Marquardt site despite not having the proper equipment on site to safely store or process it.
The illegal discharge of gas well waste water was discovered on Nov. 16, 2010, when an inspector with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) made an unannounced visit to the Marquardt site.
According to the grand jury, during that visit a DEP inspector discovered that a rear discharge valve on a storage tank had been opened and a drain plug had been removed, causing gas well waste water to flow out of the storage tank onto the ground. There also was evidence of prior waste water discharges from other storage tanks at the Marquardt site.
The grand jury found that between Nov. 12, 2010 and Nov. 16, 2010 more than 93,000 gallons of waste water was transported to and stored at the Marquardt site, of which approximately 57,000 gallons was unaccounted for following the spill.
Kane said that the toxic waste water flowed into and polluted an unnamed tributary of Sugar Run. As a result of the spill, DEP required more than 3,000 tons of contaminated soil to be excavated and removed from the Marquardt site
XTO allegedly failed to place a spill containment system under any of the storage tanks at the Marquardt site; failed to lock or otherwise secure any of the storage tanks on site; and failed to utilize any security measures to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing the Marquardt site.
According to the grand jury, XTO did not have a permit to discharge waste water at the Marquardt site and failed to report any waste water spills to DEP as required by law.
XTO Energy Inc. is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.
Kane thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for their assistance with the investigation.
The case will be prosecuted in Lycoming County by Chief Deputy Glenn A. Parno of the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Section.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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