DEP Investigating Spill Into Creek

Washington PA Observer Reporter
14 April 2012

JOLLYTOWN - A spokesman with the state Department of Environmental Protection said the agency will be issuing a notice of violation to Equitrans, a subsidiary of EQT, for a 4,500-gallon spill of bentonite into a tributary of Dunkard Creek on Wednesday.

John Poister of the DEP said although not toxic, bentonite can be detrimental to aquatic life. Bentonite is most commonly known for its use as a major component of drilling mud. It is also widely used as an additive for viscosity and filtration control.

Gilmore Township Supervisor Charles Wise reported the spill.

"I noticed the gray color in the water and contacted DEP ... and the two landowners who have cattle," Wise said. "A clay substance had blown out into the stream."

EQT was putting in a 24-inch pipeline beneath the Garrison Fork tributary when the spill occurred, according to Poister. The line is part of the Equitrans Sunrise Project, a 45-mile gas pipeline extending from Southwestern Pennsylvania into northern West Virginia.

Poister said DEP would be conducting further testing and inspections on Friday.

"We don't know the extent of damage to the stream, if there was any damage," Poister said. "The company brought in a crew to remove the bentonite and keep it from spreading. One of the concerns is the stream is kind of cloudy."

Bentonite leaking into streams can kill fish and aquatic life by clogging their gills, burying them or burying their eggs. It swells considerably when exposed to water.

EQT told DEP it had finished the cleanup and resumed drilling by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to Poister. The spill occurred between noon and 1 p.m. the same day.

Poister said the DEP hopes to have more information available Monday.