Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes, Allan Shipman was found guilty of illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater. But he’s part of a much bigger problem

Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes, Allan Shipman was found guilty of illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater. But he’s part of a much bigger problem by Aaron Skirboll, August 15, 2012 , AlterNet
The two-year investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office resulted in a total of 98 criminal counts charged against the 50-year-old Shipman and an additional 77 charges levied at his company. Said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, “He was pouring the stuff in any hole he could find.” … On Friday, June 15, 2012, Deputy Attorney General Amy Carnicella walked into the Greene County Courthouse for the sentence hearing, ready for Shipman to be taken to prison. It was pretty straightforward, as she’d say later; “He did dump waste onto the streets at night and during the rain. This happened over years. It wasn’t a single incident.” On top of it all, he pled guilty. The tentative plea agreement called for imprisonment of up to 16 months. He admitted to the crimes against him. Case closed. Sheriff Ketchem stood beside the deputy attorney general after eight hours of testimony and deliberations as the judge was set to announce the sentencing. Ketchem describes Carnicella as someone who was steel-like in her confidence pertaining to jail time for the defendant. The sheriff, however, became convinced fairly quickly into the judge’s reading that Shipman was going to walk. … By the time Judge Toothman began crying it was easy to see things were swaying towards the polluter. … Needless to say when Judge Toothman sentenced Robert Allan Shipman to probation, “She was irate,” Ketchum says, referring to Carnicella. … Contacted for comment, Carnicella treads lightly. … Further litigation is uncertain. Regarding the overall damage to the waterways, “I don’t know how anyone can say that dumping thousands upon thousands of gallons of waste, or raw sewage, of grease… whether it was only buckets…how is that not harmful? This was over many years. Let me ask you this, would you want your small child swimming in this water? I don’t think so.” … Ten days after the sentence hearing, the deputy attorney general filed a motion for modification of sentence. Toothman denied the request on June 28, 2012. On July 28, the state attorney general filed a notice of appeal with the state Superior Court seeking to overturn the sentencing. Of note in the DEP’s statement to AlterNet on the Shipman case is that Shipman has already appealed the DEP’s administrative orders “revoking the operating permits for Allan’s Waste Water Company and prohibiting Allan Shipman from any involvement in the waste business including transportation, storage, processing or disposal. Mr. Shipman appealed the administrative orders to the Environmental Hearing Board and litigation is still pending. As such, the matter remains under investigation by the Department.”

A couple of days rolled by until Craig was at the creek and says he witnessed a sludge of water flowing in, closing in on Mt. Morris. That’s when he saw the first of the fish dying at the river mouth where Big Shannon Run empties into Dunkard. Soon, it was more than a dead fish here and there, but rather a couple hundred. Then thousands. Muskies were jumping out of the water. Stressed fish. “You could tell they were being poisoned,” says Craig. Before long, stacks of dead fish could be seen. Three hundred to 400 stacked up together. The survivors battled, fruitlessly attempting to get to the fresh water. Other members of the Mt. Morris Sportsman Association joined him. In the creek, he repeats, a line of polluted water could be plainly viewed, separated from the fresh water coming in from Shannon Run and other tributaries, as the sludge worked its way down from Blacksville. Fishermen like Craig and his buddies would not soon forget the sight. Dead fish, the smell penetrating the towns along the banks. Craig called Pittsburgh television stations, both channels 2 and 4. “They always say to call if you see news, so I called,” Craig says. Nobody came. The news was happening. The footage was fresh. Dead fish continued to roll in. Channels 2 and 4 never came. Billy Craig and his friends filmed it themselves. They took photos of some of the dead fish. A 43.5-inch Muskie. A 39.5 inch flathead catfish. “And it takes a lot to kill a catfish,” says Craig. Craig says there was no cleanup. “Mother Nature took care of that.” Raccoons and green heron and a host of other animals did what they do. They ate as much as they could. The creek eventually washed the rest of the dead away. Then one night Craig says the water rose 10 inches in the creek. There was no rain. A helpful discharge from the mineshaft to rid the truth away. Craig’s not sure, but he thinks so.  When asked about Robert Allan Shipman’s probation, Craig says, “It’s a slap in the face to everyone that lives around Dunkard.” Adds Dave Headley from nearby Smithfield, “It’s ridiculous that all he got was a slap on the wrist.”

The fish kill affected nearly 30 miles of Dunkard Creek. Salamanders, freshwater mussels and almost every other creature living in the creek were dead. In all,according to Sharon Hall, an attorney for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 42,997 fish, 15,382 freshwater mussels and 6,447 mudpuppies (a type of salamander) were killed. After three years of research, the cause of the Dunkard Creek fish kill has rested on golden algae (Prymnesium parvum), a naturally occurring microscopic flagellated algae that is normally only found in waters with a high salt content. Worldwide the algae can be found in estuaries where freshwater mixes with seawater, obviously places far from southwestern Pennsylvania. Golden algae originated in the United States in 1985 in Texas and Oklahoma and since that time has stayed along the coast or in southern states, never this far north. Flowback water, millions of gallons per hydraulic fracturing well, is loaded with salts from deep beneath the earth’s surface, and is many times saltier than ocean water. Simply put, salty water caused the golden algae, but what caused the salty water?

In 2011, Consol Energy, the owner of Morris Run air shaft Shipman was dumping into that eventually leads to Dunkard Creek, agreed to pay $5.5 million and spend up to another $200 million on a state-of-the-art water treatment plant to be up and running by May 2013, but the company admitted no guilt. Instead an attorney for the company spoke of it in terms of mystic or God-like phenomena. According toThe Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register, Consol attorney Carol Marunichclaimed that “the presence of (golden algae) in the Dunkard Creek watershed were the result of natural forces beyond the control,” of the company, and later referred to the algae as an “unprecedented, abnormal, and extraordinary event.” In her suit on behalf of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (the fact that the PA DEP did not file against Consol is something that causes much ire among Billy Craig and many Greene County residents), attorney Sharon Hall described Consol’s “illegal, toxic discharges,” and termed the deeds “willful, wanton and malicious…”

In July 2009, two months prior to the fish kill, Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and a group of researchers were testing water in Dunkard. … Of more concern to Ziemkiewicz are the levels of bromide in this region’s water. … Myron Arnowitt, the PA state director for the Clean Water Action puts bromide into geographical perspective. “It’s really only coastal communities that generally deal with bromides as a water contamination problem. Obviously most of PA is outside of the Delaware estuary.” When asked if bromide was historically consistent with mine discharges in the area, Ziemkiewicz responds, “bromide is not normally found in coal mining.” Dufalla put it a bit more bluntly: “Now here’s the million dollar question, how is bromide coming out of coal water discharges, and why do the permits allowing these discharges not address bromides? ….we’re getting high levels of strontium and high levels of bromide coming out of these discharges. It’s not supposed to be there. Where is it coming from? I asked the DEP and cannot get an answer…EPA-no answer… Alpha Natural Resources [the company putting out many of the discharges] no answer… Nobody knows where they’re coming from, yet here they are. If you start putting two and two together, it’s a pretty good thought that just maybe, some of this Marcellus wastewater has made it into our mines. Just maybe.”

“Bromide is only problematic after it goes through a drinking water utility and is converted to THM [trihalomethane] and associated compounds which are, indeed, harmful.” When bromide meets the chlorine at a public water intake system it forms triahalomethane, which affects the central nervous system and has been linked to several types of cancer, as well as birth defects. And says Ziemkiewicz; this is “a big concern for municipal water authorities.” Trihalomethanes have caused the residents of Carmichaels, PA to share in these concerns. Boiling tap water advisories, recommendations to drink bottled water, a water buffalo set up at the local fire department to supply residents with clean drinking water— these have all become standard fare in Carmichaels since the gas boom began. And headlines such as the following from the Herald Standardfrom June 14, 2011 no longer come as a surprise: “Carmichaels Water Contaminated Again.” While a lot has been written about contamination of well water due to hydraulic fracturing, what about the tap water? In the midst of Carmichaels’ ongoing problem, municipal president Dan Bailey vented to the local papers in 2011: ”What upsets me is DEP knows what’s causing this yet they’re letting drillers dump that water into wastewater plants that don’t test it before they dump it into the river,” Bailey said. … “In late 2008, drilling and coal-mine waste released during a drought so overwhelmed the Monongahela that local officials advised people in the Pittsburgh area to drink bottled water. E.P.A. officials described the incident in an internal memorandum as ‘one of the largest failures in U.S. history to supply clean drinking water to the public.'”

Left to their own devices, aka unregulated, the gas industry turned to guys like Allan Shipman, and then they turned a blind eye. In a DEP file, an executive summary of the third and fourth quarters of 2008 disclosed, “Based on the speciation there appears to be a strong correlation between THM formation and elevated source water bromide concentrations in the Monongahela River.” Yet it wasn’t until the spring of 2011 that this agency requested, not required, water treatment plants to stop accepting Marcellus wastewater.

Kovach, who has worked at Tri-County for 37 years, says that prior to 2008, the company’s THM levels weren’t an issue and they were never in violation.

Says Arnowitt, “The oil and gas industry came in here pretty big in 2008, started drilling a lot of wells and all of a sudden they had millions of gallons of wastewater.

Shipman’s activities opened up a Pandora’s box. While his more heinous crimes, dumping in the rain and on the roads, are tough to get past, it might be his use of an old mine shaft that has the most importance moving forward, because the discharges coming from mines today do not match what’s historically been recorded in this area, such as the case with bromide.

Seeing streams running red, or bubbling with methane while a fisherman angled nearby simply doesn’t seem right. It’s disturbing to see farms with their animals now fenced from fresh water streams in order to keep the animals safe.

On Dufalla’s tour, a DEP agent drove by Ten Mile Creek as we took samples. When the agent stopped and emerged from his white jeep, the first thing we noticed were his clean black shoes without a speck of dirt, which to the three of us, suggested that this water pollution agent hadn’t been near water in some time. All afternoon I had listened as Dufalla grumbled about DEP bureaucracy and the pass-it-on-down-the-line mentality he’s experienced between the various divisions within the agency; water, oil and gas, mining, etc. So when the initial reaction from the agent to the pollution we showed him (he had no idea, in his clean black shoes), was “Well, this falls under the mining division,” we would later share a laugh at my jaw-dropping response. When we asked what division he was with and he replied “Water,” we alerted him to the fact that we were showing him polluted— water— that was flowing into—more water— and an area of recreation for the community, Ten Mile Creek. He quickly figured it out and showed his preparedness as he shuffled around to take some pictures, but first he had to replace the batteries in his camera.

The DEP agent took a stab at an explanation, then blamed Shipman. Says Dufalla later, “I got news for you, Shipman’s not the only one dumping stuff into those streams, and the rest of them are getting permits to do it.” …

[Refer also to: Water supply for Hamlet of Rosebud Contaminated with Carcinogen Bromodichloromethane and Water usage advisory issued for Rosebud and North Dakota Turns Blind Eye to Dumping of Fracking Waste in Waterways and Farmland, Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands ]

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