The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice reached a settlement with XTO Energy on July 18 over alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) stemming from a spill of gas drilling wastewater in central Pennsylvania.
Under the settlement, XTO must pay a $100,000 fine as well as spend an estimated $20 million on a comprehensive plan to improve wastewater management practices, including remote monitoring of tank volumes. The substantial improvements are estimated to reduce discharges of total dissolved solids by 264 million pounds over the course of the next three years. These reductions will occur in large part because XTO will increase wastewater recycling and will properly dispose of wastewaters generated by its natural gas activities across the Mid-Atlantic region.
During an inspection of the Penn Township facility in Nov. 2010, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) inspector observed wastewater spilling from an open valve on a series of interconnected tanks. At the time, XTO stored wastewater generated from energy extraction activities conducted throughout Pennsylvania at the facility. Authorities later found pollutants from the chemically treated water, including chlorides, barium, strontium and total dissolved solids, in a tributary of the Susquehanna River basin.
“The operational improvements required by today’s settlement will help to protect precious surface and drinking water resources in Pennsylvania and West Virginia,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA continues to push for responsible development of domestic sources of energy and to insist that companies play by the rules that protect public health.”
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Peter J. Smith stated, “This consent decree establishes a program of best practices that should be a model for the industry and, if followed, will give a level of assurance to the people of the Commonwealth that their waters will be protected. This settlement is in the long-term best interest of the taxpayers, the industry, and our children.”