Energy. Environment. Economy.

DEP: Unauthorized drilling fluid contaminated Potter County aquifer

Workers at a natural gas site in Bradford County.

AP Photo/Ralph Wilson

Workers at a natural gas site in Bradford County.

The Department of Environmental Protection has issued a “Notice of Violation” to a gas drilling company that contaminated a drinking water aquifer in Potter County two weeks ago. The DEP says the incident polluted at least five private drinking water supplies with a surfactant not approved by the agency for use in drilling through ground water.

JKLM Energy says while in the early stages of drilling a Utica Shale well, the company used surfactant to free a broken drill bit about 570 feet below the surface.  The company estimates that about 98 gallons of the surfactant, diluted with 22,000 gallons of water, spilled into the aquifer.

DEP says its tests have revealed the surfactant known as “F-485″ and a lubricant known as “Rock Drill Oil 150″ in the groundwater near to the well site in Sweden Township. Surfactants are soapy substances, used in various stages of the drilling process to cut down on friction. This particular surfactant contained a 10 -15% concentration of isopropanol, or rubbing alcohol. But isopropanol is not an approved chemical for cutting through such a shallow stage of the well bore in Pennsylvania. While drilling through an aquifer, producers are required to use only ”air, freshwater or freshwater based drilling fluids.”

A spokesman for the company confirmed use of the unapproved surfactant and says JKLM is cooperating with the DEP on the investigation. The Wexford, Pa. based company also created a website for local residents, which provides daily updates. The most recent post reported 93 water samples had been tested by the company, including private wells, springs and surface water.  A test to determine the presence of surfactants in the water was positive in 12 cases. One sample contained isopropanol at 15 parts per million, the state’s threshold standard for safe drinking water. Eleven contained acetone, a breakdown product of isopropanol.

JKLM is a relatively new name on the list of shale gas drillers in Pennsylvania, but it’s owned by billionaire Terry Pegula, who made his fortune through East Resources before selling the company to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010 for $4.7 billion. DEP has issued JKLM four violations this year. In one case, the company allowed an estimated 275 gallons of phosphonic acid to leak, spilling down over the drill site.

Read the DEP’s Notice of Violation regarding the Sweden Township incident below:


  • Tom Coppers

    Fluid has caused poisoned ground water flowing through new man made
    cracks in all directions. Up
    to the surface, down and sideways. Coming up in springs, creeks,
    streams and lakes. Gas coming into families’ homes through the faucets
    from their now poisoned wells. Farms without clean water for
    their animals. Families needing to truck in water to bath, drink and
    use. Flowing hazardous chemicals(fracking fluid) poisoning land
    throughout how many miles of ground and surface water from the Gas Well
    Site? Millions of acres of NEW TOXIC WASTE LAND in AMERICA approved by
    corrupt politicians and bribed EPA workers is being created. Lets see
    them drink the contaminated, poisoned water caused by injecting
    hazardous chemicals into the ground. Where are all the Going Green
    People as these millions of acres are being contaminated forever. It
    cannot be cleaned up. The earth and the water flowing through it in
    contact with these hazardous chemicals from 1 foot to 20000 feet down
    will be poisoned forever. The cost of cleaning earth and minerals in
    this amount would be more than can be imagined. Many of the birds, fish
    and animals that consume this water, depending on the amount of
    hazardous chemicals leaked into the pond or stream they drink from, will
    quickly or slowly. Right now Openly in America clean land is being
    poisoned while the Government Regulators, Politicians and citizens
    watch. The current administration said, regarding the Gulf of Mexico
    spill, that non-enforcement of drilling rules was a problem for decades.
    History seems to be repeating itself in the name of greed. All while
    clean, long existing alternatives for energy are ignored or prevented
    from being used. WHY IS DESTROYING AQUIFERS and CLEAN LAND and WATER and
    AIR OK in AMERICA? Are they horizontally drilling under your family’s
    home now to take the natural gas and poison your well water/ground
    water? They can drill from two miles and further away to directly
    underneath your home to poison your family’s well water if your states’
    politicians have voted to allow it…………..PS.-Is the Fracking
    causing EARTHQUAKES? Pumping billions of barrels of Toxic Fluids UNDER
    MASSIVE PRESSURE INTO the GROUND. Could it be figured this may be
    a problem for geology/earthquakes? Also, once the
    gas is sold overseas and almost
    all the ground water in North Carolina is poisoned, then the residents
    will be dependent on buying water at any price forever to stay alive. Is
    selling drinkable water the hidden agenda? If you live for another 30
    years, you will see the wasteland NC will become. The toxic soup
    springing up from under our feet could happen with any step we take. The
    Aquifers can flow together for hundreds or thousands of miles. It would
    be too late then. North Carolina is not new to allowing industry to
    destroy former clean natural resources. The COASTAL FISHING INDUSTRY WAS
    KILLED after NC permitted 3800 massive open-pit hog waste lagoons
    contaminating the state’s drinking water, polluting its air and streams
    and causing open sores and deformed fish and crabs. The runoff from 19
    million tons of hog waste produced annually in Eastern North Carolina
    from the hog factories has polluted Albemarle Sound, the largest
    freshwater sound in the country, and adjacent
    Pamlico Sound, the largest enclosed saltwater sound. Would you eat
    seafood with open sores and deformations? Also causing Red Tide and
    Pfiesteria. So, they have polluted the large sounds on the coast for
    decades and now they want to poison the Aquifers in North Carolina and
    water in nearby states that share the same ground water? This can
    be stopped. Please call your representatives. The internet can show you
    how many vast communities have poisoned water from Fracking. It’s
    documented. Now they have no clean water. So again, what price will they be charging citizens for clean water to stay alive?

    • Kaight

      Man, you are one wacky dude. I can remember a time when people as nutty as you were institutionalized. Those were better days for us sane people.

      • MadMaxx63

        Funny how Tom brings truth and factual statements about the article and all you can do is insult. Did you know that many insane people actually think they are the sane ones and everyone else is nuts? Really, if you have nothing factual to contribute to the article/comment…go away!

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »