Energy. Environment. Economy.

Pipeline Construction Spill Caught On Camera

This post has been updated to include a statement from the DEP.

On Friday, what a Department of Environmental Protection employee described as a “significant amount” of sediment and mud from a pipeline construction project spilled into Sullivan County’s Loyalsock Creek.

When Dean Marshall heard about the spill, he drove to Loyalsock State Forest to document the damage. Here’s what Marshall – who’s actively involved in anti-drilling efforts –  captured on camera on Sunday:

The Department of Environmental Protection didn’t respond to StateImpact Pennsylvania’s request for comment – UPDATE: see below —  but DEP emergency response manager John Erich told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette the agency traced the pollution to nearby construction of the Marc 1 Pipeline. Erich told the paper the spill won’t lead to any environmental damage, but Marshall, who hikes and swims in Loyalsock Creek, said he’s upset by what he saw. “I don’t expect to be swimming in the creek and have that splash up,” he told StateImpact Pennsylvania.

Energy company Anadarko recently purchased the private mineral rights underneath a large swath of Loyalsock State Forest, and according to multiple sources with knowledge of negotiations, is in talks with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to begin drilling there soon.

Update: StateImpact Pennsylvania contacted the Department of Environmental Protection at 1 PM Tuesday. At the time I wrote and scheduled this post, around 6:30 PM on Tuesday, the department had not responded to our request for comment. Spokesman Dan Spadoni emailed the following statement this morning, around 7 AM:

The department was notified early Friday afternoon about a significant sediment plume in Loyalsock Creek in Sullivan County. DEP staff investigated later on Friday and learned that during the course of making an open cut for the Marc I natural gas pipeline across Loyalsock Creek as allowed by DEP’s Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit, Central New York Oil and Gas apparently had some pumps break down and a plume of sediment went downstream. There were no chemicals involved as this operation did not involve boring under the stream. The department does not believe there was any significant environmental risk and has not made any decision on a civil penalty. The department will be following up with Central New York Oil and Gas.


  • Mike Knapp

    Listening to the commentary gives one a great insight into the disconnect that some folks have with reality when it comes to these incidents. The sediment seen is mud and bentonite, a non-toxic clay. It causes no environmental damage, which is one of the main reasons why it’s used in these applications. Mr. Marshall sarcastically thanks the pipe line crews for “systematically destroying” the stream. They didn’t. They didn’t even harm it. Has Mr. Marshall never seen a creek after a decent rain storm?

    Here’s Loyalsock Creek last year, after TS Lee. Loaded with millions of times the sediment compared to the miniscule release caused by this pipeline installation crew.

    Obviously, its not a GOOD thing that bentonite is spilled. But in no way, shape, or form, has this “systematically destroyed” the stream. Not even close.

    Rhetoric such as this does not help the debate.

    • JCat1212

      Yes – but the water was brown (and always is after a distubance), not a sickly green! We also witnessed the results of the spill this weekend. After four days (Friday to Labor Day), it was still the same color green. We collected a sample and plan to have it tested.

      • Mike Knapp

        Bentonite clay is white. Most runoff sediment is going to be brown, hence the unusual color. I applaud you for taking the initiative to get a test done, please share the results with Scott when you get them back. But this (unfortunately) is a common occurrence, which is specifically why companies use only non-toxic ingredients when doing directional boring under streams like this.

        • David Meiser

          Bentonite clay can have various color shades, and one of the shades is a greenish hue.

      • Mike Knapp

        Any update as to what you found on the water test?

  • Ladderback

    I have to wonder why this was described as a “drilling “accident”‘. It was a construction project for a pipeline. Granted that it will be gas going through the pipe, but if a pipe project bringing much needed gas to lower heating costs caused this problem in Connecticut, would it have also been called a “drilling accident”?

  • Julieann Wozniak

    Last week, Dunkard Creek took another hit. In addition to the TDS laden water being pumped into the stream on my side of the state line by Dana Mining without an NPDES permit, a blowout by a pipeline drilling company going UNDER the stream in West Virginia has fouled the water. WVDEP is doing nothing. PADEP is doing nothing. I presume the Dunkard is now an industrial sacrifice zone, despite what we residents want.

    • Mike Knapp


      As I mention below, every time it rains there is a much larger amount of sediment put into creeks than any pipeline crew could ever do. Stating that a creek is now a “sacrifice zone”, because a miniscule amount of non-toxic clay was spilled into it, is nowhere close to accurately stating reality.

      Companies need to take care to NOT have this happen, but you’re taking a swirl mark on your car’s clear coat that will easily buff out, and trying to pass it off as a deadly 30 car pileup.

  • Dean Marshall

    Actually, the video was taken a mile upstream from Worlds End State Park at about 9:00 AM on Sunday……. Three days after the first mess was “investigated” by DEP. Another “pump” malfunction? “Sediment”? I doubt it! What is DEP hiding?

    • Mike Knapp

      Mr. Marshall,

      Why can’t you just admit that your concerns/assertions were overstated? Why double down and try to play the “conspiracy” card? It’s really getting tiresome.

      I guess it’s just easier to say that the DEP is conspiring against (of all things) the environment, rather than admitting that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong.

  • Tony M

    I was originally told by DEP that this was caused by poor engineering practices and that it had to do with the placement of sand bags. There was no mention of pumps accidentally failing. I was also told that DEP did not have juridiction to fiine these guys because this was not a “gathering line”. The statement guoted need to be looked into. I also question why this occured Fri afternoon of a holiday weekind. It effectively ruined people’s weekend.
    What about the other 300 or so streaams this company needs to cross?

    • DeanMarshall

      yes Tony! The first response I got from DEP on Mon was ” They were making an open trench cut thru the stream and neglected to build a temp. dam to catch and suck out sediment” No mention of Drill Mud, Bentonite or anything other than natural material from the stream bed causing the cloudy water. Later, a Mr Puzio from DEP called to say he had been to the site and several locations along the creek and “saw nothing”. As a side note….the crews were off Mon as Inergy did not want to pay double time, so there would be little chance of a spill that particular day.

  • DeanMarshall

    Mr Knapp, and anyone else this may concern; The mess that Inergy has made several times is a direct disregard for Best Mgt. Practices that you and your fellow Industry Investors, Public Relations Spokes-persons and Shale Shills constantly tout. If this fouling of a pristine waterway is the best your industry can do, I shudder to think what a full blown catastrophy will be like! I know what I saw and it IS the systematic destruction of a High value Stream, aquatic life and a threat to the Loyalsock State Forest and Worlds End State Park which are set aside for the enjoyment of everyone, not the profiteering of the invading industry you are so deeply and obviously engaged in protecting. DEP has really stepped in it this time, as hundreds of people witnessed the cement colored flow thru their picnic and swimming area all thru the Labor Day Holiday! Then they have the gall to pass it off to callers as “sediment”. You, mr Knapp….went so far as to post TS Lee photo which has no resemblance to the greenish gray glop that was choking an already unusually low Loyalsock Creek. Make your distracting protestations and minimizing statements all you like,….. it only implicates you and DEP further!

    • Mike Knapp

      The industry kicked up some mud that was already in the creek. It’s not systematic destruction. Every time it rains, more mud is kicked up than that. You wouldn’t care one iota about this were it not caused by an industry you don’t like. So please, spare us the hysterical rants.

      • Dean Marshall

        This was not creek mud you obnoxious liar!

        • Mike Knapp

          You have no idea what it was. That’s what DEP said it was. DEP has no reason to lie. If it was bentonite, they would say that its bentonite, like they did on several other spills that actually involved bentonite. Why would they just up and decide to lie and institute a cover up on this one instance, to hide NON-TOXIC CLAY that is of no environmental consequence?

          • Wendy Lynne Lee

            Mr. Knapp–Seriously, you think that a DEP under the auspices of Governor Corbett–who took a million dollars in campaign contributions from the gas industry, appointed MIchael Krancer and C.A. Walker to key posts, and has foisted legislation on PA citizens that’s patently unconstitutional–Act 13–has no reason to lie? Are you KIDDING?

      • Vargus Pike

        There is a difference between sediments being carried by a stream during a storm event and sediments introduced into that stream during quiet water.
        During a storm event active erosion of the stream bed and sides takes place. The amount o sediment displaced is proportional to the amount of stream flow. Because the water moves quickly the sediments too are quickly transported downstream to join with other streams and flow into rivers. After the storm event as the waters begin to move more slowly that sediment leaves suspension and is deposited. Very small particulates are washed away to eventually be deposited in quiet waters and the stream again runs clear. Heavy sediments introduced unnaturally during times of low flow will not be transported very far. Very small particulate matter such as bentonite (clay) will stay in suspension and move very slowly downstream fouling the water for days. Though relatively chemically inert it can cause harm to some of the smaller aquatic life in the stream as well as change the energy absorption characteristics of the stream altering the ecosystem. A human may not believe that the impact of such artificial introduction of the particulate matter is significant. The aquatic life in the ecosystem may feel differently. Too many times have people decided that altering the ecosystem was no big deal and that no harm was being done only to discover later that another huge rent has been introduced into the web of life that sustains us all. Human beings are presiding over one of the largest mass extinction events ever due to the cumulative arrogant attitudes of people who continue to claim localized events like this are no big deal.

  • Bucks Committe Sierrans

    To me it just shows there are no best management practices for pipeline and gas drilling. its not the individual mishaps which occur but the collective numbers of them. I work in a highly regulated industry which follows six-sigma practices and the number of these incidents is WAY above anything which would be considered acceptable if six sigma was used.

    But for these companies this is the cost of dong business.

    Oh Yea Bentonite is chemically inert but the issue deals with aquatic insects as it is so fine and if there is a sufficient concentration it smothers the gills of aquatics insects, Insects most affected are mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies Higher order animals such as fish have mechanisms to rid their gills of this sediment, insects do not

    Again the damage depends on the particle size of the sediment as well as the concentration and the residence time of the material in a particular area.

  • DeanMarshall

    ReplyDave Meiser on September 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    I received this message from an email posting about this from State Rep Garth Everett (someone forwarded my email about this to him)You should have seen the sediment in that creek during Irene & Lee. What seemed to be irreparable damage done to the creek by these storms from one end to the other – a year later – doesn’t look nearly as bad and the ecosystem is healing. This is nothing compared to that. This type thing happens once in awhile during road construction, logging and any other kind of earth disturbance despite the use of erosion and sedimentation control measures. This incident has been reported to DEP and will be investigated and dealt with.I have been on the Loyalsock Creek my whole life and seen it run crystal clear one minute and then turn chocolate brown a few hours later because of a heavy rainstorm upstream – next day turbid – next day clear again. This pipeline will be completed, re-seeded and green by the spring of next year – I understand it will be a great place for wildlife to feed. Come back up next summer on vacation and check it out.GarthGarth Everett, State Representative
    84th Legislative District
    Harrisburg Office: (717) 787-5270
    District Office: (570) 546-2084ReplyDean Marshall on September 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm
    Mr Garth Everett,
    Thank you so much for your condescending Pro-Industry Propaganda. Do you actually believe a majority of YOUR constituents are a class of dim-wits who will be impressed by your title and accept your flimsy explaination? Hopefully you have just effectively Ended your Political Career by standing up for a gross polluter and against the peoples interests! We are becoming much wiser and better informed now-a-days Sir, and the litany of excuses,evasions, and denials from our Public SERVANTS will only serve to convince many more folks to reject you,your Official Statements, and simplistic, “Think of the jobs” rhetoric! The Energy Extraction Industry has deep pockets and immense power, but We the People refuse to stand by while our Health, Safety, and way of life is bought,sold, and erroded more every day. The time has come to expose those who would threaten our lives for Profit and Power. Good luck at the polls!

  • Wendy Lynne Lee

    Dear Mr. Knapp:

    First, I’d like you to know that I was
    with Mr. Marshall this past Sunday (9.2.12) when he carefully film-documented
    the sludge making its way down Loyalsock Creek. Moreover, I shot the enclosed
    set of photographs. To be very clear, these pictures have not been
    altered in any way. This is precisely what the camera captured in several
    different locations along several miles of Loyalsock Creek beginning about one
    mile upstream from the family swimming area at World’s End State Park, and as Mr.
    Marshall points out, three days after the initial DEP investigation. As you can
    plainly see, what’s in this water bears little resemblance to the mud stirred
    up by any naturally occurring event. For contrast, please consult the very last
    photograph in the series. This is what Loyalsock Creek SHOULD look like, and
    the rest of the set is what it DID look like on the morning of 9.2.12. Now let
    us discuss Bentonite:

    Fact: For (at least) human beings:
    Breathing prolonged and excessive amounts of Bentonite dust may not cause
    noticeable injury or illness even though permanent lung damage may be
    occurring. Inhalation of dust may have the following serious chronic health
    effects: Pneumoconiosis: Excessive inhalation of respirable dust may cause pneumonoconiosis,
    a respiratory disease, which can result in delayed, progressive, disabling and
    sometimes fatal lung injury. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath,
    wheezing, non-specific chest illness and reduced pulmonary function. This
    disease is exacerbated by smoking. Individuals with pneumoconiosis are
    predisposed to develop tuberculosis”

    (at least) aquatic life: “Bentonite is non-toxic, but there are two specific
    indirect effects of bentonite on aquatic life. Initially, the suspended
    bentonite may inhibit respiration of fishes, although this is typically
    short-lived. Once the bentonite settles, secondary long-term effects can
    result. For example, egg masses of fish could be covered by a layer of
    bentonite inhibiting the flow of dissolved oxygen to the egg masses. Secondly,
    benthonic invertebrates and/or the larval stages of pelagic organisms may be
    covered and suffocate due to fouled gills and/or lack of oxygen”

    A bentonite spill in Georges Creek, Springhill
    Township resulted in the suspension of drilling because of the potential
    effects on aquatic life in the creek from the exposure to bentonite. “If enough bentonite dissolves in the creek, Coptis [Mountain Watershed
    Association] said, it could adversely affect the creek’s aquatic habitat. She
    said bentonite can harm aquatic life by coating the stream bed and clogging the
    gills of fish”

    industry known for blunders like those described by Mr. Marshall–blunders that
    should clearly never occur: “They were making an open
    trench cut thru the stream and neglected to build a temp. dam to catch and suck
    out sediment,” indicate further evidence of the arrogance and contempt
    with which industry representatives hold their responsibilities to the
    environment and to both human and nonhuman health. That DEP’s response is a
    consistent and wholly predictable “we saw nothing” despite plain
    evidence demonstrates only that this agency cannot be entrusted to enforce its
    own laws and policies–much less err on the side of protecting life and health.
    Mr. Marshall’s concerns are clearly not overstated–especially when we consider
    this incident in its proper context, namely, that it is overwhelmingly likely
    given the timeline that far more bentonite–and whatever else may have been in
    this sludge–has made its way into the creek that Inergy acknowledges, that in
    light of Anadarko’s plans to drill in “large swaths” of Loyalsock
    State Forest we can expect only more of the negligence evidenced in this
    incident and DEP’s failure to investigate it in anything like a timely,
    thorough, or adequate fashion. This sludge dump is simply more of the same that
    we have come to expect from the hydraulic fracturing industry and its
    associated enterprises. What, however, is more horrifying is the complicity
    which characterizes the Department of Environmental Protection’s response–or
    failure to respond–to this systematic erosion of our water, air, and land.

    Recommended reading:


    Wendy Lynne Lee

    • Wendy Lynne Lee

      And here are those photographs.

      • Wendy Lynne Lee
        • Mike Knapp

          Wendy, there wasn’t even bentonite involved here, This was an open cut. By your standard, every time it rains, the creek is systematically destroyed. C’mon now!

          • Dean Marshall

            Nice try Mr knapp. You seem to be clueless as to the nature, origin, and cause of this spill, yet you choose to rebutt eye witness reports. The sludge in the Loyalsock for four days was not sediment or natural silt. DEP put out several conflicting reports and they will be compelled to release the files.

          • Mike Knapp

            I’m going by what DEP says, not some wacky anti-gas drilling activist who’s trying to tell everyone that the creek has been obliterated by a little bit of mud or non-toxic clay.

          • Dean Marshall

            You just go with DEP Mikey. This “wacky anti ….” will continue to seek the truth and protect as much of my homeland as I able to. Even I understand a discharge here and there is a way of life for you Gassers but I work against the entire scope of destruction and pollution you and your greedy allies bring.

          • Mike Knapp

            Make sure you take a look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers. The pollutants from the fuel you burned to drive out to document this caused far more harm to the environment than some mud being kicked up in a stream. And the clean burning gas that will flow through this pipeline will displace other dirtier fuels, which will also have a massive environmental benefit. When you’re tallying up the “score” to find out the net impact of natural gas make sure you’re counting the points in BOTH columns, assuming you are actually seeking the “truth” and not just trying to find evidence to bolster your predetermined views.

          • WEndy Lynne Lee

            I understand, Mr. knapp, that you are committed to the promotion of the advertising line that accords with your profit-motives–but that does not mean that your profit motives accord with the truth. And they do not.

            First, if you take into consideration the entire “life-cycle” of natural gas production via hydrofracking–the fracking itself, the immense increase in diesel emissions from truck traffic, the emissions from compressor stations, the evaporating carcinogenic waste from open frack waste pits, the “cake” transported and stored at landfills, the use of biocides, surfactants, gels, and the potential release of radioactive materials– it becomes clear that fracked natural gas production and transport is at least AS dirty as coal, and very likely dirtier–more polluting, and more carcinogenic.

            Second, you are asking precisely the WRONG question. The question isn’t which non-renewable fossil fuel has the least horrific carbon footprint and makes the least contribution to climate change (and let’s remember that methane IS a far more serious greenhouse gas than CO2). The question is: which forms of energy have the greatest prospect of seeing a future for our children? And it is CLEARLY not natural gas or any other fuel for which the highly environmentally destructive processes of extraction are required.

            Third, while this discussion has been mostly restricted to the environmental effects of fracking and all of its associated industries, the human health, community integrity, property rights/values, and ecosystem stability issues are equally serious–and far exceed the issues which attend coal production.

            Coal IS dirty. Absolutely. But THAT offers a premise for an argument to detach ourselves from ALL fossil fuels–not an argument for simply opting for the allegedly lesser of two evils–and then continuing to behave as if all is well. The name of that behavior is addictive denial.

          • Mike Knapp

            I’m sorry Wendy, but there’s no way that I am even going to attempt to respond to someone that can suggest with a straight face that the environmental effects of coal mining are surpassed by gas drilling. If this was West Virginia and we were talking coal mining, this would be a moot point. You’re up in arms over some sediment being kicked up. In WV, they fill in the whole damn valley and wipe the creek off the map entirely! On purpose! How do you think that being buried underneath several hundred feet of rock and dirt affects the fish that live in that stream?

          • Wendy Lynne Lee

            One more time, Mr. Knapp,

            Whether we are talking about coal or we are talking about natural gas generated via hydraulic fracturing, we are talking about highly polluting, forms of extraction for which our children and grandchildren will pay a steep price.If anything, fracking on top of coal mining in West Virginia only adds insult to the massive injury these folks and their ecologies have already suffered. Your argument amounts to this: “Fracking may not be as horrific as mountain top coal removal, so since fracking is only somewhat horrific and mountain top coal removal is super-horrific, fracking is OK.” Consider an analogy: “being decapitated is certainly really bad, but since having your arms cut off is not as bad, we should say “NO!” to decapitation, but OK to arm-amputation.”
            Ridiculous, Mr. Knapp–and ridiculous even IF we accept your premises.

          • Wendy Lynne Lee

            Seriously, Mr. Knapp, do you expect anyone with any sense to believe that greenish coloration is “just mud”? Would YOU swim in that? No, you wouldn’t. Moreover, your timeline doesn’t work out. The claim was that the original “failure of best management practices” was spotted, according to John Erich (Williamsport Sun-Gazette article ( last Friday. But I took these pictures (and Mr. Marshall his film) SUNDAY morning–two full days later. Were this merely churned sediment, we would certainly not have seen what we did. But there it was. I have no idea what’s in the creek exactly–though we all know that bentonite is a strong possibility (a) because it’s what Inergy would have been using, and (b) because the description of its characteristics are consistent with bentonite). What I do know–and so do you–is that these are not pictures of ordinary mud.

          • Wendy Lynne Lee

            And on this one, if DEP refuses to release the FULL report, we know they’re hiding something.

          • Mike Knapp

            Yes, I would expect plenty to believe that it was “just mud”. Yes, I would swim in it. I grew up swimming in the Allegheny River Mr. Marshall, downstream of constant discharges that would make some stirred up creek sediment look like Evian.

            It probably isn’t “ordinary mud”. If they were doing an open cut, which is just digging right through the stream, they would be going down several feet which would most likely churn up clay. What that looks like to me is clay. If it was an open cut, I don’t see where Bentonite would come into play. However, even if it was, Bentonite is not toxic and will flush out of the stream.

            I was wondering, why didn’t you find the source of the mud and take some pictures of it to remove the guessing?

          • DeanMarshall

            Not enough time to bushwack around the woods Sun. as we were on our way to The Big Splash at Seneca Lake where Inergy Midstream (Ironic name eh? Maybe it should be Inergy Pollution Stream?) plans on filling Salt Caverns with gas from this Frackin Pipeline to hold till the price goes up or they get infrastructure finished with others to pump it all back to Cove Point Md. LNG EXPORT Terminal by 2015! The Big Splash was a BIG Success as nearly 2 THOUSAND folks signed pledge to fight Fracking, Gas Storage, Pipelines, Compressor Stations and Profiteers like you mr knapp!

      • Wendy Lynne Lee
  • Julieann Wozniak

    Contrary to current belief, a bentonite spill is not completely harmless. This is a fine particulate that, suspended in water, can inflame the gills of fish and suffocate them. Filter feeders like fresh water mussels die quickly. If your region is dependent on the fishery for tourism dollars, this can be quite disastrous. Again, I cite Dunkard Creek, my local fishery. Three years after the illegal frackwater discharge that extirpated all aquatic life, the stream still has not recovered. And still suffers industrial damage which the DEPs of two states continue to ignore. The two agencies afford “protection” only to the polluting industries, who pay handsomely for the privilege. Those who dare complain are labeled as “anti-fracking,” or must listen to yet more whining about the fake “war on coal.”

    • Mike Knapp

      The Dunkard Creek fish kill didn’t have anything to do with natural gas drilling.

      • Sean Indignado Kitchen

        GO LEMMING GO!!!

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