State Attorney General files criminal charges in fracking spill
More than two years after an excess of 60,000 gallons of frac water spilled from a well pad in Eldred Township, much of it landing in a tributary, the state Attorney General’s Office has filed criminal charges against two companies.
The spill occurred because an employee, working for a subcontractor at the well pad, fell asleep as he was overseeing the transfer of treated production water, according to court records.
Both the main contractor at the site, Inflection Energy, of Williamsport, as well as the subcontractor, Double D Construction, 2962 Barneys Drive, Montoursville, have been charged with disturbance of waterways and watersheds, pollution of waters, prohibition against other pollutions, all misdemeanors, and two counts of unlawful conduct, one a misdemeanor the other a summary offense.
“Inflection Energy had been storing treated production water (a mixture of fracking fluid and formation water) in an approximate one million gallon tank for reuse,” Hector Baez, a special agent with the attorney general’s office, wrote in a six-page affidavit.
“The treated production water was being pumped to a smaller 21,000-gallon tank from where it would be transferred to trucks and hauled off site,” Baez wrote.
“During the transfer, the pump operator fell asleep, causing 63,000 gallons of treated water to overfill the tank and containment, impacting the surrounding soils and surface water,” he said.
The spill occurred on Nov. 13, 2017, and Inflection Energy alerted the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which immediately sent investigators to the scene along Wallis Run Road.
DEP investigators were told at the scene about the employee working for Double D, a subcontractor, falling asleep, Baez said.
Initially, Inflection Energy reported that “the release did not leave the pad,” but during the DEP’s inspection, “it was apparent that the treated production water had flowed downslope, off the pad and into an unnamed tributary of Loyalsock Creek,” Baez said.
DEP investigators also determined that “there had actually been two releases that occurred. DEP’s Bureau of Investigators found that the first release occurred (the day before), when the Double D employee fell asleep for 30 minutes.
“The second and much larger release occurred on Nov. 13, when the same employee fell asleep again, this time from 4:30 a.m. to 5:15 a.m.,” Baez said.
As part of a “masters services agreement” with Double D Construction, Inflection Energy “dictates how many laborers they want for a job,” Baez said, adding that Inflection Energy “requested two laborers for the water transfer at their pad” off of Wallis Run Road.
Inflection Energy officials did walk both Jason DuPont, the owner of Double D Construction, and the Double D employee working at the pad on the mornings of the two spills, “through the process of pumping the million-gallon tank to the 21,000-gallon tank to fill trucks, however there was no safety or operational training provided,” Baez said.
When the spill occurred on the morning Nov. 13, the Double D Construction employee “contacted DuPont, telling him that he had overflowed the tank.” DuPont stated he immediately contacted Inflection.
“DuPont went to the site, took a written statement from the employee, sent the employee for a drug test, which he passed, and then immediately fired him,” Baez said.
On Monday, both companies waived their preliminary hearings on the charges before District Judge Gary Whiteman.