Diesel Spill Polluted Greene Co. Waterway

Washington PA Observer Reporter
8 March 2012
By Tara Kinsell, Staff writer

Officials in Greene County were unaware a 480-gallon diesel spill had leaked into a high-quality waterway in Center Township in December until they were contacted by news media this week.

"We were never notified," said Edward "Butch" Deter, chairman of the township's board of supervisors and president of Center Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Deter said he knows the state Department of Environmental Protection was under no obligation to notify the township but considered it a common courtesy to do so.

The spill occurred at an EQT Corp. well site when a worker there was transferring fuel from one tank to another and did not realize it was seeping out, said John Poister, a spokesman for the DEP.

EQT alerted the DEP about the spill that entered nearby Patterson Run. The company contained the spill and cleaned up the surrounding land and water, Poister said.

"There could have been several scenarios that played where we needed to know this happened," Deter said. "As a fire department and township official, we have been called several times to assist with spills."

Deter said it may be a far reach, but if someone were drafting water from the creek and it still contained diesel fuel, it could be a problem, especially if it were being used to fight a fire.

"You would have thought we would have been notified somehow just as a courtesy, more as an informational item, but that did not happen," said Jeff Marshall, chief clerk for Greene County. Marshall said with the One Call system, it would have been simple to alert township and county officials.

Poister said the DEP followed its regulations for a call such as this, which did not require notifying local municipalities.

"We did not consider this to be a major incident. Anytime a high quality waterway is impacted, we want to respond quickly," Poister said. "We have seen EQT's soil and water testing results. What we have seen downstream is the readings are low. They are below the minimum approved contamination levels."

Poister said there is another inspection taking place, and additional samplings will be taken at that time, but the DEP did not believe there is anything in the water now.>

He said in the case of a major spill, municipalities would be notified by the first responders who were called to assist.

"If nothing else, it would have helped to know what is going on there if someone asked," Deter said. "It doesn't reflect well on us if someone called and we couldn't tell them."

Deter said he saw buoys on the property but thought they were part of excavation work taking place.

"It is private property. We were not aware there was a problem," he said. "I spoke with Morris Township, and they did not know either."

Patterson Run extends through both Center and Morris Townships.

The DEP began its investigation Dec. 8. A notice of violation was issued to EQT and a fine is possible, Poister said. He was unsure of the actual date of the spill but believed it to have been either Dec. 7 or Dec. 8.

A call to EQT Wednesday was not returned.