Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TOP STORY >> Gas waste farms hit with fines

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

A pair of area land farms for Fayetteville Shale waste have been fined $112,000 and had their permits revoked last month.

The permits for Fayetteville Shale Land Farm LLC in Lonoke County, just off Hwy. 70 on Hwy. 381, and Central Arkansas Disposal LLC, in White County, 2.5 miles northeast of Griffithville, were revoked March 13, according to Teresa Marks, director of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Marks determined that the land farms were guilty of numerous and repeated violations of various clean air and water regulations, including discharges resulting in fish kills. (See editorial, p. 8A.)

Land farms are disposal sites for drilling fluids and mud generated in natural gas drilling in the Fayetteville Shale.

Oil-based drilling fluids were stored on site and storage ponds weren’t properly lined or bermed. An unpermitted discharge had flowed into a ditch, which flows into White Oak branch.

At the Central Arkansas Disposal site, the department found similar repeated violations, including discharge into a stream that caused a fish kill.

Both sites are owned by Ron Carl, who has appealed the revocation.

The other White County disposal site, Big Mac Tank Trucks, 2.5 miles south of Griffithville off McDoniel Road, was inspected Dec. 1, 2008. It is still in operation, according to ADEQ spokesman Aaron Sadler.

At the Fayetteville Shale waste site in Lonoke County, “land application at the site is limited to drilling fluids generated or utilized during natural gas drilling and production operations that consist of fresh water, water-based drilling mud, drill cuttings, and flow-back water from reserve pits,” according to the revocation.

Not allowed are oil or solvents used in the process. The site must have containment berms.

Some Carlisle-area residents have been concerned about Prairie County Land Farm, literally across the street from Lonoke County. That permit is pending, waiting financial assurances, Marks said.

The Carlisle residents appeared before the Lonoke County Quorum Court last year trying to keep the land farm from operating. They have hired Sam Ledbetter, a Little Rock attorney who is familiar with environmental law.

On March 16, ADEQ issued a permit to Arkansas Petro 1 in White County, but that permit has been stayed on appeal by the town of Griffithville.

Marks said the sudden influx of drillers for natural gas in the Fayetteville Shale caught ADEQ unprepared — or partially prepared. But the agency has gotten up to speed and only about half of the disposal sites ever given permits are currently in operation, she said.

Marks said she hoped the department would be getting money for additional inspectors in the next fiscal year.

ADEQ’s study of 11 land farms found areas of concern in all. Now there are 12 or 13, Marks said, with a couple pending. Of those, six are still in operation.

In many places, the waste from such drilling is injected into lined, deep wells, but few existed when the drilling began, Marks said.

She said others are now under construction and should help alleviate the demand for land farms.

The actual drilling occurs elsewhere and is trucked to the sites in Lonoke and White counties and that’s part of the problem, as far as residents are concerned. Some sites receive waste at the rate of one truck every few minutes around the clock.

In addition to environmental threats such as oil or the toxic drilling fluids running off into bayous, streams or rivers, local residents are concerned about the heavy truck traffic and damage to their roads.

State Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle) sponsored a law that requires the waste trucking companies to compensate counties or cities for damage to their roads from so many heavy trucks.

Glover did back away from another bill he proposed which would have given cities and counties standing in the permitting process.