• DEP responds to Shell spill near Raccoon Creek

    Updated:

    PITTSBURGH - The Department of Environemntal Protection has announced a notice of violation against Shell Pipeline following a spill near Raccoon Creek.

    Below is the full statement as sent to Channel 11 from the DEP:

    As noted in DEP’s Notice of Violation to Shell Pipeline Company LP, approximately 500 gallons of drilling fluids were released, resulting in 30 gallons impacting a wetland and Raccoon Creek. DEP takes any release seriously and will continue to hold operators accountable for any violations. DEP also considers the situation and conditions associated with any incident to ensure that operators take measures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. The NOV issued on July 24, 2019, should not be considered a final action by DEP. 

    The release you cite fails to mention several points. 

    • DEP restricts fluids used in Horizontal Directional Drilling to non-toxic materials like  bentonite to protect ground and water resources if a spill were to occur. The most likely impact to waterways would be increased turbidity, or the lack of clarity in the water. 
    • The violation occurred on July 22, a date which area residents may remember from widespread heavy rain and associated flash flooding. This flooding caused a natural increase in turbidity in area waterways, the water table rising. On the construction site, the heavy precipitation lead to stormwater overflowing erosion and sedimentation controls. 
    • Of the 500 gallons of fluid that spilled, 30 gallons of diluted drilling fluid entered Raccoon Creek. The remainder was immediately contained, cleaned up, and the site restored. 
    • As a condition of the operator’s permit, Shell was required to immediately cease operations and contain the release as well as notify nearby landowners of the spill, which it did. 
    • DEP does not believe there to be any significant impact to the environment or water supplies resulting from the violation on July 22. 
    • DEP has approved the operator’s corrective actions of placing additional berms to prevent an overflow situation from reoccurring in future rain events. 

    When DEP approved the permits for this project, it included appropriate construction techniques and special conditions in the area of the Ambridge Reservoir. DEP accepted precautionary measures proposed by Shell which included having all necessary repair materials and crews on site during construction. These measures go beyond Pennsylvania’s regulatory and statutory requirements.  

    Below is the full statement from Shell:

    “Safety and environmental stewardship is at the core of Shell’s operating philosophy. We’re committed to working closely with Pa. DEP, Ambridge Water Authority, Beaver County Conservation District and other stakeholders during construction and eventually, operation. This includes a comprehensive plan for testing of nearby water supplies before and after construction.

    On July 22, due to heavy rain, an accidental release of boring fluid occurred at a Falcon pipeline construction site on a horizontal directional drill (HDD) pad in Beaver County. 

    Shell Pipeline Company LP immediately stopped operations and activated its emergency response team to contain and respond to the incident. Of the 500 gallons of fluids that were released, it is estimated that approximately 30 gallons impacted the wetland beneath the pad and entered the stream.

    Local and state agencies were notified as required. Shell is working closely with the Beaver County Conservation District in the response. Pa DEP, which acknowledged Shell’s transparency in reporting the incident, has authorized resumption of work at the site.

    The boring fluid is a non-toxic mixture of water and clay and is primarily used to keep the drilling bit cool and remove cuttings from the bore hole.

    Shell’s primary focus is the safety and health of people, for the protection of the environment and to minimize any impact as a result of this event.  We are committed to the safe and thorough investigation and response to this incident.”


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