ExxonMobil Pennsylvania Subsidiary Charged With Dumping Fracking Waste
By: Christopher A. Iacono
XTO Energy Inc., a Pennsylvania-based subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., has been charged with illegally discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from a Marcellus Shale gas well site in Penn Township, Lycoming County.
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said evidence and testimony was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges be filed. XTO owns the Marquardt well site in Penn Township, which contains two natural gas wells that produce wastewater with toxic substances — including chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum — during natural gas extraction. XTO is charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act. The case will be prosecuted in Lycoming County by Chief Deputy Glenn A. Parno of the Attorney General’s Environmental Crimes Section.
XTO allegedly stored the waste in 21,000-gallon storage tanks at the Marquardt site for processing. The ExxonMobil unit hired another company to recycle the wastewater on the Marquardt site from Nov. 4, 2010, through Nov. 11, 2010, the grand jury found.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, after that one-week period, XTO directed that company to remove their processing equipment from the site. However, XTO allegedly continued to transport and store gas well wastewater at the Marquardt site despite not having the proper equipment to safely store or process the wastewater.
The illegal discharge was discovered on Nov. 16, 2010, when an inspector with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made an unannounced visit to the Marquardt site. During the visit, a DEP inspector found that a rear discharge valve on a storage tank had been opened and a drain plug was removed, which caused the gas well wastewater to flow out of the storage tank onto the ground. There was also evidence of prior wastewater discharges from other storage tanks at the Marquardt site, according to the grand jury.
The grand jury concluded that more than 93,000 gallons of wastewater was transported to and stored at the Marquardt site between Nov. 12, 2010, and Nov. 16, 2010, of which approximately 57,000 gallons was unaccounted for following the spill. The wastewater flowed into and polluted local waters and, as a result of the spill, the DEP required more than 3,000 tons of contaminated soil to be excavated and removed from the Marquardt site. XTO allegedly failed to place a spill containment system under any of the storage tanks at the Marquardt site, failed to lock any of the storage tanks on site, and failed to utilize security measures to prevent unauthorized people from accessing the site. XTO did not have a permit to discharge wastewater at the Marquardt site and failed to report any wastewater spills to the DEP as required by law, according to the grand jury.