Resident Suing Over Foul Odor at Gas Well's Wastewater Site

Alleges inspector blocked by DEP

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
26 May 2011
By Don Hopey,

Something stinks around a Marcellus Shale wastewater reservoir operated by Range Resources in Amwell, Washington County, according to a local resident's lawsuit, but a state Department of Environmental Protection inspector said administrators told him to ignore complaints.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg by Beth Voyles, contends that John Carson, a DEP field inspector, said superiors in Harrisburg and in the southwest DEP regional office in Pittsburgh told him he was not permitted to accept any complaints, investigate or file any citations against Range for noxious odors allegedly coming from the reservoir known as the "Yeager impoundment."

Range denies any odor associated with the reservoir.

DEP declined to respond to questions, saying it could not discuss the case because it "may be a party to pending litigation."

The court case comes as the DEP struggles with news reports about procedural changes that require field inspectors to get approval from administrators in Harrisburg before issuing violation notices to Marcellus Shale drilling operations or other state agencies.

The lawsuit asks the court to force the DEP to accept and investigate Ms. Voyles' complaint; take water, soil and air samples; and issue notices of violation if warranted. The court has scheduled an expedited hearing for 1:30 p.m. June 1 in Harrisburg.

"She was told by the DEP inspector he was not permitted to take her complaint or issue a citation of violations," said Kendra Smith, Ms. Voyles' attorney.

"We filed this because DEP is required by law to act on every citizen complaint that comes through its system, either by phone or through the Internet."

But Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman, said the DEP inspector didn't respond to Ms. Voyles' complaint because there was never any odor problem at the impoundment.

He also said Ms. Voyles has a long history of unfounded complaints against Marcellus operations in Amwell, including allegations that a dog and a horse had died from drinking chemically tainted drilling waste water.

Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983.