Fracking Waste From Gas Well Dumped in State Game Lands
By Rick Hiduk
Although the details of a report issued by state police at Towanda on Dec. 2 appeared ominous, the misdemeanor charge of “scattering rubbish” seemed pale by comparison. Truck driver Josh Foster was arrested for allegedly dumping 800 gallons of fracking fluid—deemed “dangerous materials” in the report—on state game lands in Warren Township, Bradford County. Now that the spill along Regan Hill Road has been cleaned up, at least one Warren Township supervisor agrees with Talisman Energy spokesperson Natalie Cox that the mixture of mud, mineral oils, and rock fragments was never “toxic” and posed no serious threat to the environment.
Both state police and township supervisor Fred Wheaton agree that Talisman acted swiftly and cooperated fully with authorities. In fact, it was Talisman that contacted police, Bradford County Emergency management, Pennsylvania DEP, and the Pennsylvania State Game Commission when they first learned of the incident during the early morning hours of Dec. 1.
“Before we even learned whether or not the materials were associated with one of our sites, we activated standard and precautionary measures,” Cox stated. “A spill is a spill, and we took it seriously. Such incidents give the industry a black eye, and we regret that this individual’s actions caused any impact on the community, our neighbors, and the responding government agencies.”
“Within a short time after it was discovered, Talisman was on site,” said Wheaton, who related that the fracking waste had been vacuum-extracted from Talisman’s Strope gas pad in Warren Township, about a mile and a half from where Foster released it. “They would have been at it that same evening, but they had to wait for response to a PA-One,” Wheaton added, in reference to a mandatory procedure of conferring with authorities to determine whether any underground utilities might have prevented digging up the affected soil as quickly as it was apparently cleaned up.
Cox declined from naming the subcontractor that employed Foster, noting that the matter is now a criminal investigation between state police and the individual. Nonetheless, a statement at www.talismanusa.com indicates that neither Foster nor the company that employed him is permitted to work for the gas company in the future.
“Talisman did not authorize the contractor’s unlawful action, and we do not condone any such non-compliance with the law and regulations,” Cox wrote in a statement issued by Talisman.
Wheaton credited landowner Roger Cook for reporting the spill and expressed dismay and bemusement that Foster would believe that he could get away with such an act.
“I can’t imagine anybody being that far out of the loop to not have known that he would be caught,” Wheaton remarked. When asked how future incidents of this sort might be avoided in the township, he conceded that the community is really at the mercy of the gas companies. “We don’t have the force to police everything that happens pertaining to the gas business. There’s no way for us to monitor situations like this,” Wheaton stated, adding that Talisman’s complete response at least provided some comfort that, if another accident were to happen, proper procedure would again be followed.
He cautioned against public hysteria about the spill, however, noting that, in Canada, the type of material that was spilled along Regan Hill Road is spread on farm fields. Neither Wheaton nor Cox was certain where the affected soil and fracking waste was taken after it was removed from the spill site.
Foster remains in the Bradford County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bail and is awaiting a preliminary hearing date.