A Warren company has agreed to pay a $25,000 settlement in lieu of fines and civil damages for the discharge of a chemical product into Pine Creek in Lycoming County last spring.
The original fine imposed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) against Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC of Warren was $28,960.
The fine was levied following a investigation by Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission waterways conservation officers and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that concluded the local company had violated the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code, the Clean Streams Law, the Solid Waste Management Act and DEP's oil and gas regulations.
"Fortunately, Pine Creek water flows were very high during this time and diluted the discharge to a point where it was not considered harmful," said John Arway, PFBC executive director. He noted that PGE responded to the incident and cooperated with the Fish and Boat Commission and DEP.
"Pennsylvania General Energy responded in a prompt and responsible manner to address this unforeseen incident," Dave Mashek, partner in Meinert/Mashek Communications, said earlier this month on behalf of PGE. "This action ensured that there were no environmental impacts to Pine Creek or the surrounding area."
According to a DEP release, on March 15, 2010, white foam was observed running down a mountainside stream that flowed from a spring above state Route 44 before emptying into Pine Creek in Cummings Township, Lycoming County. The discharge, fueled by spring rains, occurred between March 13 and 15, according to the DEP.
The chemical was determined to be a surfactant, Airfoam HB, a chemical wetting agent approved for industry use and the source was a "PGE Marcellus gas well site situated above the spring discharge, on the mountainside approximately 2,000 feet away," according to the release.
Surfactant or wetting agents are mixed with water to create a foam that lifts water and drill cuttings to the surface, the DEP said.
Investigators had determined that "the surfactant was pumped down the well during the drilling process and, in all probability, accumulated in a void in the sedimentary rock layers," according to the Fish and Boat Commission. The surfactant was then flushed laterally through the underground rock strata by heavy rain runoff before emerging as a soapy discharge at the spring.
Pine Creek is nationally known as a high-quality stocked trout water, heavy recreational fishing and kayaking waterway, according to the Fish and Boat Commission. It is commonly referred to as the "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon."