|Harrisburg, PA – A Warren, Pa., company has agreed to pay a $25,000 settlement in lieu of fines and civil damages to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) as a result of the company’s unpermitted discharge of a chemical product into Lycoming County’s Pine Creek last spring.
Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC (PGE) agreed to pay the settlement following an investigation by PFBC waterways conservation officers and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into the incident, which was first observed on March 15, 2010.
“Fortunately, Pine Creek water flows were very high during this time and diluted the discharge to a point where it was not considered harmful,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway, who noted that PGE responded to the incident and cooperated with the PFBC and DEP. “However, the multiple illegal discharges still violate the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code, the Clean Streams Law, the Solid Waste Management Act and DEP's oil and gas regulations.”
Pine Creek is nationally famous as a high quality stocked trout water. It also is a heavily used recreational fishing and kayaking waterway. It is commonly referred to as the “Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.”
On March 15, 2010, a mountainside stream flowing from a spring above state Route 44 was observed running white and foamy as it cascaded down the mountainside prior to emptying into Pine Creek in Cummings Township. The discharge, fueled by spring rains, continued for several days.
A subsequent investigation by PFBC law enforcement officers and DEP determined that the contaminate material was Airfoam HB, a chemical wetting agent, and that the source was a PGE Marcellus gas well site situated above the spring discharge, on the mountainside approximately 2,000 feet away. Natural gas well drillers mix wetting agents, commonly called surfactants, with water to create soapy foam that reduces surface tension and aids in the drilling process. Airfoam HB has been approved by DEP for use by the industry.
PFBC investigators determined that the surfactant was pumped down the well during the drilling process and, in all probability, accumulated in a void in the sedimentary rock layers. The surfactant was then flushed laterally through the underground rock strata by heavy rain runoff before emerging as a soapy discharge at the spring.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.