Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gas-lease cash to pay new inspectors of drilling sites


Agency says gas-lease cash to aid hiring of inspectors
Posted on Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gas-lease money to hire inspectors

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is set to get $3.5 million from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that it will use to hire more inspectors to keep watch on the state's growing natural gas drilling industry.
Teresa Marks, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said Wednesday that while a formal agreement has yet to be signed, she is looking forward to using the money to hire new inspectors to regulate drill-water disposal sites.
The money will come from leases issued by the Game and Fish Commission to natural-gas firms to drill on state-wildlife management areas.
Drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale geologic formation has led to the creation of at least 13 drill-water disposal sites, which are permitted to store the water and rock sediment discarded during drilling. Two sites recently were ordered to cease operation until violations have been remedied.
The department currently has 17 inspectors who only visit the disposal sites in response to complaints. Eight inspectors are assigned to the Fayetteville Shale.
The Game and Fish Commission earns about $30 million annually on the land leases.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Raft Creek pollution by gas-driller's waste kills fish in Wildlife Management Area

Dead fish spur state to ban site from taking driller wastewater
Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Gas-drilling waste kills fish in Raft Creek

A second facility used to store and dispose of discarded water used by natural gas drillers can no longer accept the wastewater, the director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday.
A property owner reported seeing dead fish on his property near the Griffithville disposal site operated by Searcy-based Central Arkansas Disposal, said Teresa Marks, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.
After investigating, the department issued an emergency order Friday after an inspection found a "large unlined, unpermitted waste treatment reservoir," being filled through an underground pipe from the licensed facility, the emergency order states.
On Dec. 3, the department closed a wastewater storage and disposal facility near Carlisle for improperly applying the water onto farmland.
Marks imposed a moratorium on new permits for drill fluid storage facilities until a study is completed examining the effects the operations have on soils and waterways. She said Central Arkansas Disposal was already scheduled for sampling.
The director said the complaint coincided with the ongoing study.
"We did have some sampling that was part of the scientific study, but also had a complaint about a reservoir that a citizen was concerned about," she said. "We went out to test as a result of the complaint and determined that it had high a level of chlorides."
The manager of Central Arkansas Disposal, Ron Carl, was traveling out-of-state Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, according to a man who answered the phone at the company's office in Searcy.
The unpermitted reservoir was emptying into Raft Creek, the emergency order says and an employee from Central Arkansas Disposal "stated that the fluid within the reservoir was from the Central Arkansas Disposal facility. The employee did not know if the fluid reached the reservoir by pumping or gravity flow."
A water sample also found high chloride levels in the stream. The creek feeds the Steve Wilson/Raft Creek Wildlife Management Area in White County.
Mike Armstrong, chief of fisheries for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said because the fish found on the landowners property had been dead for at least a week or more, it was hard to determine the magnitude of the fish kill in the creek.
"We did delineate that between a one-mile and two-mile stretch of the creek was affected," Armstrong said. "We found several largemouth bass up to 4 pounds and quality sized crappie so there was a robust fish population in those ditches."
Armstrong said the commission would study data on similar habitats to make an estimation of how many fish should be in the area.
"I would suspect that kill would be in the thousands with dead bass in the 2- to 4-pound range," he said.
Land farms consist of at least two large plastic-lined ponds that hold drilling fluid - which is mainly water and rock sediment discarded during drilling. After obtaining a permit from the department, land farm owners are allowed to irrigate crops with the fluid, after sending samples to the department.
The fluid is generated by companies drilling for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale, a geologic formation that stretches from north-central Arkansas to the Mississippi River. The formation is expected to have a $22 billion impact on the Arkansas economy by 2012, according to a University of Arkansas study.
Marks said she is unaware of any drinking water in the area that could be affected, but that the company now faces a penalty of up to $10,000 per day of being in violation of its permit.
She said the emergency order simply calls for the company to cease operation, but enforcement action will follow.
"We have a matrix at the water department and we can plug in such information as whether or not harm was done to the environment; whether or not it was an intentional act and whether or not the company has a history of violations, things like that."
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

AP says drilling waste from Fayetteville shale gas wells used for irrigation found to be oily

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Firm Ordered Not To Take Drilling Wastewater

CARLISLE -- A company that collects wastewater from natural gas companies drilling in the Fayetteville Shale has been ordered by environmental regulators to stop.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality issued the emergency order to Fayetteville Shale Land Farms near Carlisle after an inspection found the fluid -- a mixture of water and sediment discarded from the drilling process -- was not adequately contained on the property and included oil in violation of the state permit.

Arkansas has 13 "land farms." The operations use large plastic-lined ponds to hold drilling fluid, which they then use to irrigate crops. The wastewater must be contained and absorbed on the property and cannot include oil-based drilling fluids, which are listed as hazardous waste.

In its Dec. 3 order, the department said Fayetteville Shale Land Farms improperly applied the fluid to crops, creating pools on the Lonoke County property. Also, an inspector found "what appeared to be a large amount of oil in the staging pond."

According to the order, "Oil should not be found in the staging pond for fluids that are to be land applied."

Deputy Director Steve Martin said the inspection most likely was prompted by a complaint from a nearby resident.

A spokesman for Fayetteville Land Shale Farms did not immediately return a call for comment.