The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it has signed a consent order and agreement with Range Resources for violations at six of its impoundments in Washington County.
“We have fined Range Resources $4.15 million, the largest fine that has ever been brought against a company in the Marcellus Shale era,” said DEP spokesman John Poister.
In addition, Range Resources has agreed to close five impoundments and upgrade two others. The impoundments in question are used to store water.
“In a number of cases there were leaks and in some other cases there were contamination of soil and groundwater, and these are in violation of department regulations,” Poister said.
Even with the violations, the DEP said there have been no reported impacts on drinking water from any of the impoundments. Range Resources met with DEP officials and agreed to all terms. It will use one impoundment for freshwater storage only, and the upgraded ones will be built to heightened standards.
“This higher standard involves much more sophisticated leak detection and also thicker liners in the impoundments,” said Poister, “and these will serve as a benchmark for future impoundments.”
The liner systems at the Chartiers Township 16 and Amwell Township 15 impoundments will be thicker than is currently required, plus an electrically conductive geomembrane will allow better identification of potential leaks and a real-time leak detection system will be installed. Range Resources will also fully investigate and remediate any groundwater contamination caused by the previous operation of the impoundments.
Range Resources will immediately begin the closure of the Hopewell Township 11, Cecil Township 23, and Kearns impoundments and will also continue the closure of the Yeager impoundment. The company must close the Hopewell Township 12 impoundment by April 1, 2015.
Poister said the monitoring of these impoundments has been going on for some time and acknowledged that the pace of monitoring and taking action can frustrate the public at times, making it seem like the problems are being ignored.
“It’s not a thing where you can note a problem and then just shut something down the next day," Poister said. "It doesn’t work quite that way. You have to make sure everything is in order as far as the regulations are concerned, that the violations will stand some scrutiny and then you have to go forward.”
And going forward, Range Resources will be required to report to DEP on the progress of the shutdown and remediation of the sites on a quarterly basis. The consent order also requires the company to immediately begin soil and groundwater investigations at each of the closed impoundments to determine the impacts from their operation of the impoundments. If contamination is found, the company is required to remediate the sites.