Momentum Reveals a 2nd Bentonite Spill
DEP issues driller a draft consent order
Morgantown Dominion Post
9 November 2012
By Ben Conley
On Aug. 30, M3 Appalachia Gas Gathering System, known as Momentum,
inadvertently released an inert, clay-based drilling lubricant
into Dunkard Creek.
Momentum has confirmed that on Oct. 2, a second, much larger
bentonite release occurred in the creek, upstream from the first.
According to Dave Mashek, of Meinert/Mashek Communications, a
public relations firm representing Momentum, the August incident
“released 700 gallons of bentonite drilling fluid into the creek
and the Oct. 2 incident, 4,500 gallons.”
Cleanup following a release entails containing the spill with
sandbags and pumping the cloudy water from the containment area
into tanks or tanker trucks.
Following the initial spill, Momentum left the cleanup
infrastructure in place — pumps, vacuum trucks and storage tanks —
to handle incidents. This strategy intensified following the
second release, Mashek said.
Since the August spill, he said, “we have maintained several
containment areas from which the nonhazardous bentonite drilling
fluids have been recovered with vacuum trucks on a 24/7 basis.
This [Oct. 2] release was handled in the same fashion as the
first, with additional containment areas being installed.”
Mashek said the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was
immediately notified once the bentonite was discovered in both
Thomas Aluise, with the DEP, confirmed the agency was notified of
both releases, but said he was limited in what he could say
because the DEP was waiting on Momentum to return a draft consent
“Basically, we issue consent orders as a means to settle issues of
noncompliance with the regulated community,” Aluise explained. “If
a company has environmental violations, we can draft a consent
order with our Findings of Fact and an Order of Compliance.”
Aluise went on to say the DEP is scheduled to meet with Momentum
in a few weeks in an effort to reach a settlement or allow the
company to dispute any of the findings, Orders of Compliance or
monetary penalties described in the order.
Once a settlement is reached, the order will be put out for a
30-day public comment period. If a settlement cannot be reached or
Momentum refuses to sign the order, other methods, including
lawsuits, could be considered.
The releases occurred in separate sites as Momentum attempted to
bore a pipeline underneath the creek. That process was completed
in mid October, Mashek said.
“This week we completed the boring operation and are preparing to
pull the pipe through the bore hole, which will complete our work
in and around Dunkard Creek. After the work is complete, we will
continue to monitor the creek for any residual effects for at
least two weeks,” he wrote in an Oct. 17 email.