MILTON TOWNSHIP – Only a few months after the Rover Pipeline was given permission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue drilling construction at certain Ohio locations, five more spills have taken place, three close to home for Ashland and Richland County residents.
In addition, on Wednesday, Rover Pipeline plans to host “check presentation events,” including one that will take place in Mansfield. Each county’s emergency management department will receive $10,000.
In the latest incident, the company’s construction activity caused 200 gallons of bentonite-based drilling fluid to be released into a tributary of the Mohican River near the Ashland-Richland County border in Milton Township, according to a press release from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
On Nov. 17, the EPA issued a notice of violation to the Texas-based company for the spill, which took place either on or before Nov. 16. The unauthorized release of the drilling fluid, a pollutant, into waters of the state is a violation of Ohio Revised Code 6111.
“In addition to the unacceptable number of new violations that Rover has caused in a matter of a few weeks, I am particularly concerned with the facts surrounding the IR (inadvertent return) that occurred on Nov. 16, 2017,” director Craig Butler, of the Ohio EPA, said in a Nov. 22 letter to the Rover Pipeline.
“The IR involved drilling slurry that daylighted just under the water line within the Black Fork Mohican River and was located 1-foot from the river bank.”
The incident is Rover’s 19th notice of environmental violations in Ohio this year and the fifth since September when FERC allowed drilling to resume at certain locations, the EPA reported. In May, FERC had ordered all new drilling activities to halt along the Rover Pipeline project until the company complied with new measures and receives authorization.
According to a previous interview with Richland County engineer Adam Gove, most activity was able to continue in the county, except where one horizontal directional drill was needed along the Ashland-Richland County border.
A Nov. 22 letter from Butler of the Ohio EPA also documents two additional Ashland County spills. On Nov. 17, the Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation for a spill of approximately 90 gallons of drilling fluids that took place earlier this month.
The letter states, either on or before Nov. 9, Rover discharged approximately 60 gallons of drilling fluids into state wetlands in Ashland Township, and on or before Nov. 14, a 30-gallon spill affected wetlands in Milton Township.
Because of these spills, Butler asked Rover to pause horizontal drilling activities, review its contingency plan and ensure readiness to respond to future inadvertent returns.
“I find it very troubling how only a few short weeks after being allowed to restart operations by FERC in Ohio, we are continuing to document significant violations. I cannot explain how disappointed I am with the continued trend of Rover causing environmental damage in Ohio by continuing operations causing unauthorized discharges to Ohio waterways,” Butler said in the letter.
“I understand the significance of this project, and while Ohio remains supportive of oil and gas infrastructure development, it cannot come at a cost of jeopardizing public health or the environment.”
He noted that all three recent spills in Ashland County are near the location that a 50,000 gallon spill occurred in April. Drilling fluids were dumped into wetlands near Amoy-Pavonia Road in Mifflin Township in eastern Richland County by crews working on the Rover Pipeline.