Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Derrick: DEP: Little Headway In Reno Oil Well Wastewater Cleanup In Venango County

Inspection reports from the state Department of Environmental Protection show Petro Erie has made little progress in the last four months cleaning up the oil well wastewater spill that contaminated Bellows Spring, which serves as a source of water for homes and businesses in Reno.

Alan Wolf, a DEP water quality specialist, on Nov. 13 inspected wastewater storage tanks and the contaminated spill area and found no activity at the site, according to the DEP. 

Wolf reported he found some contaminated soil from the earthen dike surrounding the tanks was excavated, put in piles and covered with plastic. However, oil staining was still visible inside the dike area.

There was another excavated trench at the site with water in it, according to photos taken during the DEP inspection.

Petro Erie’s appeals of DEP’s order to rectify matters, including site cleanup and addressing violations, remain pending. 

However, DEP and Petro Erie notified the Environmental Hearing Board in a joint letter on Oct. 17 that they are in settlement discussions over the appeals. They did not set a deadline as to when those discussions would conclude.

In both appeals filed by Petro Erie, the company claimed it “lacked the financial ability to comply with the order.” Because of Petro Erie’s appeals, DEP has refrained from commenting publicly on its cleanup order.

Wolf first inspected the site of the wastewater spill on July 21 in response to a complaint and found a drain valve open with wastewater fluid flowing from oil well wastewater storage tanks across the ground and into a wooded area toward Bellows Spring, according to DEP.

Wolf turned off the valve and took field measurements in the spill area to confirm the contamination, according to DEP. 

He also contacted Harry Rhoades, owner of Erie County-based Petro Erie, to advise him of the spill and possible impact to Reno’s water supply.

Wolf and other DEP staff, on July 31, met with Rhoades at the site of the spill, according to a DEP inspection report, to discuss the violations the agency said it found and the steps needed to clean up the spill.

On Aug. 3, DEP again talked with Rhoades about the cleanup and “clearly communicated the importance and urgency of starting the cleanup process at the site,” according to DEP’s inspection report.

DEP reported “Mr. Rhoades seemed to understand.”

An Aug. 29 inspection report by Wolf found Petro Erie had started excavating soil contaminated by the spill and putting it in piles covered with plastic near the Lower Reno 6 oil well operated by the company. The piles of contaminated soil, however, have not been removed for proper disposal.

On Oct. 23, Robert Bechtel, DEP oil and gas operations environmental manager, wrote a letter to Petro Erie that outlined specific actions the company did not complete as required by the agency’s July 21 and August 16 cleanup orders.

Among actions not completed, according to Bechtel’s letter, were submitting complete plans for cleaning up the contamination and well production wastewater; describing the arrangements to restore and, if needed, replacement of the source of water for Reno’s water supply; and reimbursing Venango Water Co. and Aqua Pennsylvania for their costs to respond to the emergency and supply replacement water (Aqua Pennsylvania is the Montgomery County-based utility that received an emergency order on Aug. 12 from the state Public Utilities Commission to operate Venango Water Co.).

Bechtel’s letter also included actions needed to correct other violations found during inspections of other nearby oil wells and wastewater storage tanks operated by Petro Erie.

Editor’s Note: Written by David Hess a contributing writer who served as DEP Secretary under Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker.

(Photos: From DEP’s November 13, 2023 inspection report.)

Resource Links - Village Of Reno:

-- The Derrick: DEP: Little Headway In Reno Cleanup  [PDF of article]

-- Petro Erie Inc. Again Claims It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s 2nd Order To Cleanup Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County  [PaEN] 

-- Petro Erie, Inc. Appeals 2nd DEP Order Requiring The Operator To Restore The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply Contaminated By A Spill Of Conventional Oil Well Wastewater In Venango County  [PaEN]  

-- Petro Erie, Inc. Says It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s Order To Clean Up Conventional Oil Well Wastewater That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County; Will Taxpayers/Ratepayers Be Stuck With Cleanup Costs Again?  [PaEN] 

-- Do Not Consume Water Advisory Lifted In Village Of Reno; Petro Erie, Inc. Barely Begins Cleanup Of Conventional Oil Wastewater Spill Site That Contaminated The Water Supply In Venango County   [PaEN] 

-- DEP Finds 2 More Petro Erie, Inc. Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Tanks With A Pipe Leading To A Discharge Area In A Ditch In Sugarcreek Boro, Venango County  [PaEN] 

-- The Derrick: DEP Issues Order To Petro Erie, Inc. To Restore Village Of Reno Water System, Cleanup Contamination Caused By Its Conventional Well Wastewater Release; 1 Month Without Clean Water  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Investigates Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Leak As Possible Source Of Village Of Reno Water Supply Contamination In Venango County; Customers Under Do Not Consume Advisory For 2+ Weeks  [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 18 to 24 - 5 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; 2nd Spill At Same Shale Gas Pad This Month; Village Of Reno Wastewater Cleanup Slow Going  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - November 25  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Posted 47 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In November 25 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  


-- The Daily Item Guest Essay: State Senator Calls Natural Gas Infrastructure Public Health And Safety Bill ‘Stupid’ - By Scott and Jessica Mathias, Health Care Providers

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: Southwest PA Families Call On Gov. Shapiro To Fulfill Recommendations Of Natural Gas Grant Jury

-- TribLive Guest Essay: Conventional Oil & Gas Well Plugging Must Continue For Health Of Pennsylvania - By Evangelical Environmental Network

-- Post-Gazette Editorial: Reliable Power Means Applying Robust Reliability Standards To Natural Gas Infrastructure 

-- Tribune-Democrat Editorial: Reliable Power Means Shoring Up Natural Gas Infrastructure

-- Post-Gazette - Anya Litvak: PA Natural Gas, Electric Utility Prices Are About To Be Reset For The Winter  [Range Of Changes: Natural Gas (+149% to -64.2%); Electric (+18.8% to -25.7%) ]  

-- TribLive: Plans For New Hazardous Waste Landfill Near Yukon, Westmoreland County Suspended After EPA Report  [75% Of Waste Comes From Shale Gas Operations ]

-- The Allegheny Front - Reid Frazier: EPA Finds Spills, Leaks, Heavy Metals At Hazardous Waste Landfill Near Yukon, Westmoreland County

-- Bloomberg: Cooking A Big Meal With Gas Can Produce More Indoor Air Pollution Than Health Guidelines Suggest Is Safe

-- Reuters: Utility-Scale Batteries Becoming Cheap Enough To Make Developers Abandon Scores Of Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants

-- WTAE: Turtle Creek Battery Manufacturer Eos Energy Promising A Safer Environment, More Jobs For The Region

Related Articles This Week:

-- The Derrick: DEP: Little Headway In Reno Oil Well Wastewater Cleanup In Venango County  [PaEN] 

-- The Daily Item Guest Essay: State Senator Calls Natural Gas infrastructure Public Health And Safety Bill 'Stupid' - By Scott and Jessica Mathias, Health Care Providers  [PaEN] 

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Holds Business Meeting Dec. 14 On Water Withdrawal Requests, Including Shale Gas Drilling In Loyalsock, Pine Creek Exceptional Value Watersheds  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 19 Shale Gas Well Pad Water Use General Permits In Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming Counties  [PaEN]

[Posted: November 25, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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