DEP Fines Chesapeake Appalachia $565,000 for Multiple Violations
In addition, Chesapeake paid $190,000 as part of a consent order and agreement after the operator lost control of a well head during hydraulic fracturing of the Atgas 2H Well in Leroy Township, Bradford County, on April 19, 2011. Fluids from the well mixed with rainwater and entered a nearby unnamed tributary to Towanda Creek and Towanda Creek itself.
On April 20, DEP detected levels of total dissolved solids, chlorides and barium that were higher than background levels at the mouth of the tributary, where it enters Towanda Creek. Subsequent testing further downstream and on the following days showed these levels returned to normal background levels.
Chesapeake took two days to stop the flow from the well and four days beyond that to bring the well fully under control. At DEP’s request, Chesapeake suspended completion activities at well sites across the state for approximately three weeks while assessing its equipment’s integrity, containment mechanisms and procedures.
Chesapeake’s payment includes a $67,000 reimbursement for costs associated with the agency’s response. The company must also conduct further testing, using an independent laboratory, of five groundwater monitoring wells from the surrounding area to ensure there were no impacts to groundwater from the release. Samples of the five monitoring wells taken in July, August and October 2011 showed levels consistent with regional groundwater quality.
North Towanda Township, Bradford County
In connection with a third site, DEP fined Chesapeake $160,000 as part of a consent order and agreement resulting from violations in 2010 of impacting a wetland and allowing sediment to enter Sugar Creek in North Towanda Township, Bradford County. Part of a well pad was built in the wetland. It was constructed with extremely high, steep slopes which, after significant precipitation, caused additional sediment to slide further into the wetland and the nearby stream.
A series of site inspections in July 2010 found that the well pad had been constructed partially in a wetland and the construction activities deviated from the site’s erosion and sediment control plan, rendering the site vulnerable to erosion. DEP issued a notice of violation for encroaching on wetlands without a permit and failing to implement best management practices. A follow-up meeting also directed Chesapeake to develop a remediation plan.