Substance ID'd as Drilling Mud

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
12 May 2011
By Christie Campbell, Staff writer

A foamy substance noticed Monday in Buffalo Creek was accidentally deposited in the water two months ago as part of a pipeline installation.

MarkWest Energy Partners notified the state Department of Environmental Protection March 4 that there was an "inadvertent return" of drilling mud while it was installing the pipeline in Blaine Township.

MarkWest operates a natural gas processing plant on Route 519 near Houston.

Kevin Sunday, a press officer with the DEP, said after the department was notified it investigated the matter. He said MarkWest notified the DEP again Monday when the matter resurfaced after fishermen in West Virginia reported seeing something in the water.

"(MarkWest has) been forthcoming, and they're working with us," Sunday said.

Rob McHale, manager of environmental regulatory affairs for MarkWest, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Sunday said the company was installing the pipeline about 30 feet under the creek when it had an "inadvertent return" of drilling mud, or clay, and foaming agent. The portion of the creek is located off Route 231 in the "Hewitt to Hoskins" portion of the pipeline.

Sunday said it is believed that the substance flowed downstream and into some stream beds where recent rain activated it, causing the water to become foamy and cloudy.

Kathy Cosco, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia DEP, said results of test sampling were not yet completed by the department.

However, she said a test at the Wheeling wastewater treatment plant indicated it was bentonite, which is used as a sealant in drilling mud.

K. Robert Fowler, director of the Emergency Management Agency for Brooke County, W.Va., said initial tests revealed whatever the substance was, it was not toxic.