Drilling Mud Likely the Buffalo Creek Contaminant

by Dee Fulton on May 13, 2011

A spill of drilling mud 2 months ago in Pennsylvania is suspected as the culprit in the recent incident of contamination in Buffalo Creek.  MarkWest Liberty officials said the natural gas processing company “might be” responsible for the gray-white foam which was distributed over a 25 mile long stretch of the stream and was also spotted in the Ohio river.  A fisherman reported seeing a foamy substance floating in Buffalo Creek near Taylorstown, WV on Monday evening.   Buffalo Creek  flows east to west from Pennsylvania, through Brooke Co. WV, and empties into the Ohio River.  The substance had dissipated in the stream by Tuesday, said K. Robert Fowler, director of the West Virginia Emergency Management Agency.

MarkWest Energy Partners had an incident called a “frack out” that the company reported to the Pennsylvania DEP on March 9, the spokesman said on Wednesday. Workers on March 2 had used the clay bentonite and the unidentified foaming agent to help bore a hole for a pipeline under the creek near Route 231 in Blaine, Washington County, Pa. The two substances seeped up into the streambed and likely were stirred up later during heavy rains according to Kevin Sunday, PADEP spokesperson.

The Observer-Reporter stated on May 10 that presence of the widespread gray-white foam in the creek prompted the temporary shutdown of several West Virginia public water operators.

Tom Aluise, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia DEP, today said complete lab results of sampling performed by the WVDEP were not yet available.  Earlier WVDEP spokesperson Kathy Cosco reported that a test at the Wheeling wastewater treatment plant indicated the substance was bentonite, which is used as a sealant in drilling mud.  K. Robert Fowler, director of the Emergency Management Agency for Brooke County, W.Va., said initial tests revealed whatever the substance was, it was not toxic.  The chemicals are not toxic, said Kevin Sunday (PADEP), though he declined to name the chemical foaming agent.  As of Thursday, PADEP officials were still waiting for MarkWest to send safety data sheets for the chemicals used at the site.

Observer-Reporter , May 12

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review May 12

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: