DEP investigating oily ooze emanating from Western PA lawn

  • Marie Cusick

A family in Western Pennsylvania has been displaced after an oily, gas-smelling ooze began emanating from their front lawn in Fox Chapel, Allegheny County over the weekend.
The home was built close to an abandoned well. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, there used to be a shaft on the property, but it has since been capped and sealed.
From the Tribune Review:

Authorities ordered homeowners Charles T. Campbell II and his wife, Eileen, to evacuate with their two adult children and four dogs because of the strong gas odor and appearance of a 3-inch-deep, 12- by 20-foot area of sludge outside the house, but they believe they should be able to return by Wednesday.
The family declined to comment. They were staying with relatives.
“We don’t know what this stuff is or where it came from,” [Fox Chapel police Chief David] Laux said. “The speculation is that it’s a little residual — and I hesitate to use the word — ‘burping,’ just the ground giving up a little petroleum.”
DEP is trying to determine whether the substance, which smelled like crude oil, could have come from an abandoned well on the property, said spokeswoman Amanda Witman.

Sunoco, which owns an out-of-service pipeline near the property, told the newspaper there was nothing in the pipeline when the mystery ooze first appeared. The company has nevertheless brought in a cleanup company to remove the sludge and contaminated soil.
“We are still investigating,” Laux tells StateImpact Pennsylvania. “Our focus is looking into the fact there may have been an abandoned oil or gas well on the property. The pipeline is probably not the reason this came up through the ground.”
Laux says the family should be able to return home within the next 48 hours.
As StateImpact Pennsylvania has previously reported, there are approximately 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells across the state– and only about four percent of the locations are known.

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