SOUTH RENOVO - A truck hauling 1,400 gallons of "frac" water from an Anadarko Petroleum Co. drilling site in Grugan Township rolled over on a rural road in Gallagher Township on Saturday afternoon.
Some area residents have expressed concern about the crash, given the close proximity to the South Renovo watershed, the possibility of contamination of its headwaters, and the perceived delay by company officials in reporting the accident to authorities and local government officials.
Frac water is a byproduct of the lateral drilling process for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation some 4,000 to 6,000 feet beneath much of central Pennsylvania.
An Anadarko subsidiary, Anadarko E&P Co. Ltd., is one of the major players in the natural gas drilling industry in central Pennsylvania.
As for the water used in the shale fracturing process, it has a number of materials added to it, including a biocide used to prevent micro-organisms from growing in the well, and lubricants designed to assist the combination of sand, water and other materials slide through the formation prior to fracturing the shale.
The water that returns to the surface must be treated, according to DEP regulations which call for the removal of contaminants.
Marcellus Shale flowback water contains very high levels of salt, which cannot be removed through normal wastewater treatment processes.
According to Clinton County Emergency Services Director Kevin Fanning, only a small amount of frac water was released as a result of this crash - perhaps about two gallons during the transfer process.
Fanning said state police were dispatched to the scene, but no other service was required because there were "no injuries and no fluid hazards."
State police at Lamar said no written report of the accident was made, again because there were no injuries, and said their system showed only one incident in the area in the time at question - a request for assistance from a motorist who skidded off the road about two miles east of Baker's Run."
"This happened around 1:30 p.m. while a truck owned by a company called Infinity was hauling production water from an Anadarko pad," said Dan Spadoni, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Resources. "The driver apparently lost control due to icy conditions and the truck rolled down the bank close to the headwaters of the South Renovo Water Authority."
One fire official at the scene remarked that if the truck had cracked open after rolling 20 feet off the road, the entire reservoir could have been contaminated within two hours of the crash.
But Spadoni said there was no evidence of fuel or any other type of engine fluids spilling in the vicinity, but as a precaution, Minute Man Spill Response was called to the scene to remove about 110 gallons of diesel fuel contained in the truck's saddle tanks.
After that process, he said, the production water transferred to another Infinity truck and was transported from the scene. DEP, the water authority and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources were at the scene, as was a unit from IPC Wrecking, to set the rig back on its wheels.
"As a rule we don't investigate vehicle accidents," Spadoni said, "But there were no impacts to the South Renovo water supply."
Some residents also complained about the lag between the accident itself and notification of authorities, and Spadoni commented, "Obviously, these types of incidents should be reported as soon as possible, even with no evidence of a leak from the accident."
He also said that, to his knowledge, no additional action is pending or anticipated from DEP.