A concoction of water, chemicals, silica sand and oil-tainted mud was dumped into a private Ohio pond in mid-May by a company tasked with disposing of waste from a Utica oil shale drilling site, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The spill was discovered by investigators after they received a tip that the private pond had become a dumping site for Harch Environmental Resources. According to the Columbus Dispatch, state inspectors discovered the company was backing trucks up to the top of a hill and releasing the chemical-laden debris into a private pond located in the state’s Belmont County.
The content of the waste included two components of the fracking process, which is used by energy companies to extract oil and gas from rock.
One of the products dumped into the pond was mud laced with oil, often used as a lubricant in the fracking process.
The other product was a liquid combination that includes water, silica sand and a slew of chemicals. The substance is injected into the ground to break up rocks where oil is trapped, allowing companies access to deep underground oil sources.
While Ohio oil companies voluntarily report some chemicals used in the fracking process to the industry-run website FracFocus.org, companies are not required to disclose all chemicals, including those protected as “trade secrets.”
The ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management tested samples of the dumped residue and positively identified the pond as contaminated with oil-field waste, according to a press release. The ODNR’s testing detected high levels of chloride and sodium.
Harch Environmental Resources was hauling fracking waste from a well operated by Gulfport Energy Corp., an Oklahoma City-based company. In response to an order by the ODNR, Harch has temporarily ceased operation.
According to the Dispatch, the ODNR is looking into whether Gulfport will also be held accountable, as Ohio law indicates oil companies are ultimately responsible for their fracking waste.
The ODNR also ordered Harch to begin cleanup on the impacted property and to halt operations at its storage facility.
“We will pursue and punish any company that chooses to violate or ignore ODNR’s core mission to protect Ohioans and the environment,” ODNR Director James Zehringer said in a press release. “Ohio’s laws provide some of the most comprehensive safeguards to public health in the country, and when those regulations are broken, ODNR will take all necessary steps to hold violators accountable.”
The recent discovery prompted the ODNR to begin testing other bodies of water in the state, and results are pending. In the meantime, the Dispatch is reporting that Harch Environmental Resources is interested in once again operating in Ohio.
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