Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

ExxonMobil Fined for Fracking Wastewater Spill into Pennsylvania River

Energy
ExxonMobil Fined for Fracking Wastewater Spill into Pennsylvania River

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.

——–

By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.

Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.

The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Marsh Creek in north-central California is the site of restoration project that will increase residents' access to their river. Amy Merrill

By Katy Neusteter

The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less
A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less
President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Jan. 30, 2020. Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.

Read More Show Less