The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency issued two separate violation notices to the Dallas-based company Energy Transfer Partners, parent company of the Rover Pipeline, for spills of drilling fluid in Ohio that occurred mid-April 2017, totaling about 2,050,000 gallons.
While attention is often focused on the potential of pipelines to leak oil or natural gas, the construction period of a pipeline presents its own spill potentials, as has happened in both Stark and Richland counties in Ohio, on April 13 and April 14, respectively.
Both spills involved a clay-based substance, bentonite, that is used under high pressure to cut through rock during the construction of a pipeline. Bentonite, while being a non-toxic substance, is gel-like and may lead to the suffocation of fish, worms and other wildlife in and near the wetlands or waterways. Bentonite is the substance added to cat litter so that it will clump when wet with urine or feces. Large amounts of bentonite in the wetlands and waterways can be difficult for aquifers to filter, in addition to affecting water quality and wildlife habitat.
Ohio EPA spokesman, James Lee, has explained that none of the bentonite reached the Tuscarawas River in Stark County, but did affect the wetlands in both areas which are also designated as flood plains. To date, there have been no indications that the spilled material has affected either public water systems or private water wells.
Energy Transfer Partners has issued a statement indicating the 50,000-gallon spill in Richland County, Ohio, that occurred on April 14 has already been cleaned up, with efforts underway to clean the two million gallon spill in Stark County, Ohio.
According to an EPA spokesperson who talked with PBS NewsHour, the spills have been contained and cleanup is ongoing.
The violation notices issued by the Ohio EPA to Energy Transfer Partners require the company to:
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- Stop the release of additional drilling fluids into the wetlands and waters of Ohio
- Establish and maintain appropriate containment points to prevent the migration of mud from the impacted areas
- Remove drilling fluids and the mud that settled out from impacted areas of wetlands
- Follow procedures provided to the Rover Pipeline HDD Contingency Plan for Corrective Actions
- Properly dispose of all generated waste in accordance with applicable laws and regulations