Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

EPA approves waste disposal well in Clearfield County

A sign opposing a planned deep injection well sits on a lawn in Brady Township, Clearfield County

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign opposing a planned deep injection well sits on a lawn in Brady Township, Clearfield County

Federal environmental regulators issued a permit on Friday for an underground injection well in Clearfield County that will be used to dispose of oil and gas waste liquids.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the permit for Windfall Oil and Gas of Falls Creek, Pa. to build and operate a disposal well in Brady Township. The approval is the agency’s second in less than a month for injection wells in Pennsylvania. EPA issued a final permit to Seneca Resources on January 28 to operate a disposal well in Elk County.

The Brady Township injection well will pump fluids into a geologic layer about 7,300 feet underground known as the Huntersville Chert and Oriskany Sandstone, which has been tapped during decades of gas production, according to EPA records. Windfall will be limited to injecting a maximum of 30,000 barrels per month into the well.

In public comments submitted since the draft permit was issued in November 2012, people raised concerns about the well’s location and strength, its proximity to drinking water supplies and recent seismic events in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arkansas that have been linked to underground injection wells. In a response document, EPA recognized the “strong evidence that supports the underground injection of fluids as being the trigger that led to these seismic events,” but said that the geologic settings and operations of those suspect wells “differ significantly from the proposed Windfall injection operation.”

There are already two brine disposal wells injecting oil and gas waste fluids in Clearfield County, EPA said. Both of them are operated by Exco Resources. One well has been in use since 2005 and has injected about 623,000 barrels of produced fluid into the Huntersville Chert/Oriskany formation. The other has been in use since 1989 and has injected about 371,000 barrels of fluid into a shallower formation known as the Tiona Sandstone. The EPA temporarily shut down one of Exco’s injection wells in Clearfield County and fined the company in 2012 after the company noticed the well was leaking brine and continued injecting fluids into it for months without notifying the EPA.

EPA said there are no drinking water wells and no documented abandoned oil and gas wells that penetrate the injection zone within a quarter mile of the Windfall well site. A well location map submitted to the state shows 14 water wells within 1,000 feet of the proposed well.

Residents of the area have said that their neighborhood is the wrong place for an injection well and critics of the proposed well vowed last week to continue to fight it.

State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) called the EPA’s decision to issue the permit “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

“I have worked hard since this disastrous injection well proposal came to light by authoring legislation that would allow Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to disapprove injection wells, such as the one in Brady Township that will negatively impact our neighbors’ quality of life,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “I am furious the EPA has approved this permit before my legislation could be acted upon.”

Gabler sponsored a bill in June 2013 that would prohibit new injection wells from being built or operated within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings or water supplies unless their owners waived the setback restrictions. House Bill 1566 would also give Pennsylvania environmental regulators enforcement authority over the placement of injection wells.

Any petitions to appeal the permit must be filed within 30 days of Friday’s notice.

This post has been updated to include information about the well location map.

Comments

  • Marianne Atkinson

    The article states that the EPA said there are no drinking water wells within a quarter mile of the Windfall well site.

    However, my water well is about 850 feet from the proposed disposal injection well in Brady Township/Clearfield County. The plat map sent to me by Windfall Oil & Gas shows 13 other private water supplies within 1000 feet of the injection well. In addition, I believe there are a few more water wells within 1320 feet (1/4 mile) of the Windfall well site.

    • http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M18178 Maggie Henry

      Can you share the gps coordinates?

  • x schlumber employee

    Yes Marianne, my well is about 680′ from this garbage hole! How could the EPA say that there were no water wells within the 1/4mile review area when they were presented with the amount of information we gave them??!! Are these people for real?? Sounds like another good point for an appeal…….

  • Sue

    I was horrified by the meager quarter mile separation!
    Trucking toxic waste thru a residential area and injecting it there is totally insane!

    • Marianne Atkinson

      Sadly, there is no quarter mile separation between the injection well
      and homes. The quarter mile refers to the 1/4 mile radius Area of Review
      that the EPA takes into consideration before issuing a permit.

      Such
      as, are there any unplugged/abandoned gas wells within the Area of
      Review that could provide a conduit for toxic fluids to migrate into a
      USDW?

      1/4 mile is 1320 feet. There are 14 homes with water supplies that are WITHIN 1000 feet of the proposed injection well.

      • http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M18178 Maggie Henry

        God, am I cursed? Looking for a home to escape the gas crap by our 4th generation farm in Lawrence county and this is what I am greeted with? WT*? Treasure Lake is 6-9 miles from Brady Township…I need to join a group protesting this!

  • Perryjeff

    Rep. Gabler’s legislation to allow DEP to override federal decisions related to disposal wells is a smoke screen. If it was a serious bill, he would have convinced his Republican leadership to move the bill, which has been languishing for months in committee. Why doesn’t he support expanding set backs from drilling pads (which Act 13 said could be no more than 300 feet)?
    I don’t support the approval of more disposal wells in PA. But Gabler’s bill is just for show. No real effort was made to get it passed, or supported by Corbett. Election-year politics!

  • Marianne Atkinson

    Rep. Matt Gabler’s fellow Republican, Governor Corbett and his DEP, have the final say as to whether the disposal injection well can go in. Windfall Oil & Gas has to have both an EPA permit and a PA DEP well drilling permit before it is a done deal. ( The PA Code of Regulations http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter78/s78.18.html )

    If Windfall obtains both permits, it will be interesting to see if Gabler will also be furious at Gov. Corbett and his PA DEP if they grant a permit before Gabler’s legislation is acted upon.

  • Victoria Switzer

    Early on in this Marcellus Madness, DEP Secretary John Hanger told me that PA had the wrong geology for injection wells. Has the science changed or has the current DEP totally aligned itself with the PROMOTION of the gas industry and not the PROTECTION of Pennsylvania???

  • DoryHippauf
  • winterarrives

    you should get two pizzas!

  • Marianne Atkinson

    The GPS coordinates are 41.081944, -78.746917.

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