OH EPA Says Diesel Fuel Found in Rover 2M Gal Drilling Mud Spill

Rover is Energy Transfer’s $3.7 billion, 711-mile Marcellus/Utica natural gas pipeline that will run from PA, WV and eastern OH through OH into Michigan and eventually into Canada. On April 13, Rover workers experienced an “inadvertent return” of “horizontal directional drilling fluid”. That is, they sprung a leak and spilled nearly 2 million gallons of drilling fluid (see Rover Pipeline Accident Spills ~2M Gal. Drilling Mud in OH Swamp). The leak did not spill into the Tuscarawas River (thankfully), but into a swamp (i.e. “wetland”) next to the river. As we pointed out at the time, “Fortunately the primary component of said drilling fluid is nontoxic bentonite–the same ingredient used to make shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and kitty litter.” On Friday, the Columbus Dispatch reported the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) investigating the spill has found the presence of diesel fuel in the spilled mud. Diesel fuel IS toxic–and its presence is not a good thing. Furthermore, OEPA Director Craig Butler, who has been combative against Energy Transfer and the Rover project, claims an anonymous source tipped them that diesel fuel was being added to the drilling mud. So OEPA tested the spilled mud, and mud not yet used, and found “very very low levels” of diesel fuel, whatever that means. The original “proposed” (i.e. not yet officially assessed) fine by the OEPA was $431,000. Then OEPA said it would up the fine to $714,000 after storm water runoff became an issue (see OEPA & Rover at Odds Over Storm Water Runoff, “Fine” Now $714K). With the diesel fuel “revelation,” OEPA is upping their proposed fine to $914,000. Pretty soon we expect it will sail on by a cool $1 million. OEPA has presented their findings to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the two remaining FERC commissioners have launched an investigation…

We have to caution you that the Columbus Dispatch is very biased against this project, and their bias shows in their reporting. With that said:

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it found diesel fuel in the drilling mud Rover Pipeline builders spilled in a wetland near Canton in April.

With the discovery, the state EPA raised the proposed penalty against Rover to $914,000 and ordered the pipeline company to monitor groundwater around the spill area and near a quarry where workers have been disposing drilling mud in pits.

The quarry is near a well owned by Aqua Ohio, a company that supplies drinking water to some 40,000 customers in Stark County.

“The water has been tested by Aqua Ohio, and it was clean as of today,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said Thursday. “We’ve also taken samples of private water wells, and we will demand that Rover continues to do that to make sure, in the abundance of caution, that their water is safe.”

Test results are pending on samples taken from 11 private water wells.

Pipeline project

Dallas,Texas-based Energy Transfer is building the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline across northern Ohio. The interstate pipeline will carry natural gas produced by wells in the Utica and Marcellus shales.

Where Rover’s route crosses highways and rivers, construction teams drill a path beneath the obstacle.

Workers drilling beneath the Tuscarawas River south of Navarre, in Stark County, on April 13 inadvertently released 2 million gallons of drilling mud into 6.5 acres of wetland.

The spill — one of several environmental violations — prompted FERC to suspend other Rover drilling projects, and the commission ordered Rover to have an independent third-party contractor analyze all drilling activity at the Tuscarawas River site.

On Thursday, FERC told Rover to preserve all records related to the composition, acquisition, preparation and disposal of the mud.

In a joint statement, Acting FERC Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur and Commissioner Colette D. Honorable said they were troubled by indications that diesel fuel was in the drilling mud, which went against commitments the company made to gain FERC’s approval for the project.

“We are fully cooperating with both the FERC and the Ohio EPA on this important issue,” Energy Transfer spokeswoman Alexis Daniel wrote in an email. “At this time, however, there is no evidence that the source of the hydrocarbons is related to our drilling activity.”

Anonymous tip

Butler said Rover assured EPA the drilling mud contained only water and clay, but the agency found diesel in an initial sample from the spill site and got an anonymous tip from a person who claimed to have witnessed diesel fuel being added to the mud during drilling.

That prompted more testing late last week that revealed diesel fuel in unused drilling mud, in mud released in the wetland and in mud in the quarry pits, Butler said.

“We found very, very low levels,” Butler said.

The state has ordered Rover to stop using the quarry for disposal and will make the company remove the existing mud.

Meanwhile, Aqua Ohio is watching its nearby production wells. The company supplies customers in all or parts of Massillon, Hills & Dales, North Canton and Green, and in several townships.

“In addition to our normal testing we are analyzing additional samples taken from source water wells, finished water and other relevant materials to make sure that our water supply remains safe,” said Aqua Ohio spokesman Jeff La Rue. “Our sampling indicates no presence of the contaminants in our water which is in concurrence with the OEPA results.”

Environmental groups have called for an immediate halt to construction on the pipeline.

“It’s clear that Rover cannot protect everyday Ohioans and our waterways or the company is not interested in doing so,” said Jen Miller, director of Sierra Club Ohio. “The Sierra Club calls on FERC and Gov. Kasich to protect us by stopping all construction.”*

*Columbus (OH) Dispatch (Jun 2, 2017) – Diesel fuel found in mud from pipeline project

Funny, the Sierra Club calls for the same thing (“halt all construction”) for every new pipeline project–not just Rover. They must have a form letter template they use and just insert the name of the latest pipeline project. They are anti-fossil fuel extremists.

Below is a copy of the FERC joint statement about the diesel fuel found in the drilling mud sample–and FERC’s pledge to immediately investigate: