Quantcast

ExxonMobil Fined for Fracking Wastewater Spill into Pennsylvania River

Energy

Mint Press News

By Trisha Marczak

The Obama administration has fined an ExxonMobil subsidiary $100,000 and ordered the company to spend $20 million to improve its hydraulic fracturing wastewater management system in the wake of a 2010 leak that contaminated a tributary of the Susquehanna River.

This photo taken from a plane above Hickory, PA, shows pits containing fracking wastewater. Photo credit:
Marcellus Protest via Flickr.

The U.S Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed the fine down to XTO Energy, which Exxon bought out in 2010, based on an alleged violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

According to a statement released by the EPA last week, the fine given to XTO Energy wasn’t so much a fine as it was an agreement, as the company accepted the $100,000 figure and complied with recommendations that it improve its wastewater facilities to prevent similar spills in the future.

“Today’s settlement holds XTO accountable for a previous violation of the Clean Water Act and requires operational changes and improved management practices to help ensure the safe and responsible handling of wastewater produced during natural gas exploration and production activities,” stated the EPA.

At issue is a spill in 2010 in Pennsylvania’s Penn Township, where state inspectors came across a leak stemming from an open valve at an XTO frack water recycling plant. Inspectors noted that the open valve was connected to a series of tanks that held wastewater from fracking wells throughout the state.

When a well is fracked, a mixture of water, chemicals and silica sand is pumped deep into the Earth to break up rock formations where oil is hidden. When the oil is extracted, that combination of chemicals, silica sand and water is also extracted. After the oil is separated, oil companies are left with a mixture of silica-laced water that contains naturally radioactive organic materials not suitable for above-ground disposal.

That contaminated water that found its way into a Penn Township river. An EPA investigation conducted with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection discovered that the pollutants found in the tributary of the Susquehanna River basin—including chlorides, strontium and barium—were the same chemicals detected in the XTO Energy wastewater storage tanks.

Alan Jeffers, a spokesperson for XTO Energy, told Reuters the fine was fair and that the company was already working on improvements to its wastewater facility. He also indicated the company has determined there is “no lasting environmental impact.”

XTO Energy operates throughout the country, including Texas, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

While XTO Energy was singled out by the federal government for its 2010 spill, Pennsylvania residents are waiting for a crackdown on fracking spills throughout the state.

In May, a malfunction at a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby residents’ land, including a farm site. It was the second spill in two months for Carrizo Oil and Gas. In March, a malfunction at another Pennsylvania fracking site spilled more than 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid, causing the evacuation of several homes. The EPA has not issued penalties against Carrizo for the spill.

In June, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources noted Harch Environmental Resources had been blatantly dumping fracking wastewater into a private pond. The company temporarily ceased operations and was ordered to clean up the contaminated pond.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING WASTEWATER page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less
Jennifer A. Smith / Moment / Getty Images

By Brenda Ekwurzel

When temperatures hit the 80s Fahrenheit in May above latitude 40, sun-seekers hit the parks, lakes, and beaches, and thoughts turn to summer. By contrast, when temperatures lurk in the drizzly 40s and 50s well into flower season, northerners get impatient for summer. But when those 80-degree temperatures visit latitude 64 in Russia, as they just did, and when sleet disrupts Mother's Day weekend in May in Massachusetts, as it just did, thoughts turn to: what is going on here?

Read More Show Less
Shrimp fishing along the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

By Paula Ezcurra and Octavio Aburto

Thousands of hydroelectric dams are under construction around the world, mainly in developing countries. These enormous structures are one of the world's largest sources of renewable energy, but they also cause environmental problems.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Activists in North Dakota confront pipeline construction activities. A Texas bill would impose steep penalties for such protests. Speak Freely / ACLU

By Eoin Higgins

A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would make protesting pipelines a third-degree felony, the same as attempted murder.

Read More Show Less
An Australian flag flutters in the wind in a dry drought-ridden landscape. Virginia Star / Moment / Getty Images

Australia re-elected its conservative governing Liberal-National coalition Saturday, despite the fact that it has refused to cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions or coal during its time in power, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Tree lined street, UK. Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

The UK government will fund the planting of more than 130,000 trees in English towns and cities in the next two years as part of its efforts to fight climate change, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less