Range Resources faces fine over Pennsylvania fracking wastewater leak

HARRISBURG Pa. Wed Aug 6, 2014 5:45pm EDT

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HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - Oil and gas producer Range Resources did not properly monitor leaks from a wastewater containment pond in Pennsylvania and the state has begun enforcement action that could lead to a fine, state officials said on Wednesday.

A leak was detected earlier this year at the Yeager impoundment in Amwell Township in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to the Notice of Violation issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection on July 24.

The pond contains a briny mixture of fluids, including drilling water that returns to the surface after fracking, the process that involves pumping chemical-laced water and sand underground to fracture rock to release oil or gas, said Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella.

"During its operation of the (pond), flow was often detected in the leak detection zone, but Range did not satisfy the permit's weekly chlorides testing requirements," the notice said.

The Yeager pond was opened by Range Resources in 2010 and has been the subject of ongoing litigation by neighbors upset at the company's refusal to reveal the exact makeup of the fluids in the containment pond.

Range is not required to say what it holds in the wastewater pond, said John Poister, a spokesman for the southwest regional office of DEP in Pittsburgh. He did not specify the level of a possible fine.

DEP is also investigating leakage at two other Range Resources containment ponds in Washington County. The company has 23 ponds in the county, said Pitzarella, the spokesman. He said it has drained and is closing the Yeager pond, but denied that was because of the leakage.

(Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by Edward McAllister and Dan Grebler)

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