Flowback Spill into Marshall County Creek Under Investigation
The State Journal
27 February 2013
By Pam Kasey
The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating
a Feb. 22 spill of hydraulic fracturing flowback to an unnamed
tributary of Wheeling Creek in Marshall County.
It's not the first time DEP has had report of a spill of flowback
— the chemical-laced, briny fluid that returns to the surface when
a shale well is hydraulically fractured — into one of the state's
waterways, but it's pretty rare.
"We haven't had this exact situation happen before, but there have
been a couple of incidents in which flowback has gotten into a
stream in the last couple of years," said DEP spokesperson Kathy
A National Response Center incident report documents a call
received at 4:41 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 and says the incident
occurred — or in this instance likely was discovered — at 9 p.m.
the previous evening.
An estimated 8,000 barrels, or 336,000 gallons, of hydraulic
fracturing flowback was released into an unnamed tributary,
according to the report.
That initial estimate was revised downward, on further
investigation by the company, to about 2,260 barrels, or about
95,000 gallons, Cosco said.
The release was stopped, according to NRC incident report's
account from the caller, "by means of damming. The water level of
the affected pit was taken down immediately and absorbents and
booms were applied."
A DEP inspector was on-site on Saturday, according to Cosco.
As far as DEP understood so far on Wednesday, the release was from
a lined, centralized wastewater pit — one located not on a wellpad
but rather located centrally to serve activities on more than one
The release was an overflow, not a breach or failure of the pit,
and occurred because a valve was inadvertently opened that
diverted part of a flow of fresh water intended for a fresh water
impoundment into the wastewater pit.
The release was less than 3 percent of the pit's maximum capacity
of about 3.7 million gallons.
DEP doesn't know how long the overflow went on before it was
The waste flowed across a Consol Energy mining property and into
The DEP investigator took samples from the pit and from the creek
and, although results had come back from the laboratory on
Wednesday, DEP had not yet reviewed the results. Cosco did say
that the samples were tested for "constituents associated with
drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation."
The agency also did not have information on Wednesday about the
volume of the spill in comparison with the size of the tributary.
No fish kill had been identified as of Wednesday.
Plans for monitoring and remediation have not yet been formulated.