Pipeline firm cited for 2M-gallon spill in Ohio wetlands

File photo of the Tuscarawas River | Photo Credit: Tim Kiser
Published: .
Updated: .

A Texas company building a high-pressure pipeline to carry natural gas from Appalachia has been issued violation notices for spilling a total of about 2 million gallons of drilling fluid into two separate wetlands last week, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said.

About 2 million gallons of the non-toxic, clay-based lubricant spilled April 13 as Rover Pipeline employees drilled horizontally beneath the Tuscarawas River near Navarre in Stark County, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Cleveland.

EPA spokesman James Lee said Thursday that none of the clay mud, called bentonite, reached the river.

The spill, covering 500,000 square feet, was caused by pressure during drilling that allowed mud to rise to the surface, Lee said.

The next day, about 50,000 gallons of bentonite spilled in Richland County, about 70 miles northeast of Columbus, after a pump failed.

No bentonite has been found in private water wells or public water systems from either spill, Lee said. While the mud is non-toxic, it can smother wildlife, fish and invertebrates like worms and dragon flies, he added, and described both wetlands as floodplains.

The violation notice requires an immediate cleanup. Lee said the EPA will consider possible fines and other penalties against the company after cleanup work is completed.

The company said in an email Thursday that cleanup in Richland County has been completed and that pipeline construction has resumed. The cleanup in Stark County is continuing, the company said.

The $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline project will amount to 710 miles of pipe when completed and will transport natural gas from fracking operations in the Appalachian region of eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. The gas will serve markets in the Midwest, Northeast, East Coast, Gulf Coast and Canada.

Much of the Ohio segment will consist of twin, 42-inch pipelines capable of carrying 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas per day — enough to meet the needs of more than 30,000 homes for a year.

Filed under: