After several spills and at least four violation orders, state environmental regulators have shut down a gas drilling wastewater treatment facility built at a former rodeo arena in Indiana County.
The state Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday that it has revoked the permit issued to Aquatic Synthesis Unlimited and will use the company's $1 million bond to begin cleaning up the site, which holds 1 million gallons of shale gas drilling wastewater and at least 5 tons of contaminated soil.
John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said URS Energy and Construction, a Pittsburgh firm, has been hired to do the soil remediation and wastewater disposal work. URS will submit a work plan in the next few weeks.
On the site now are several wastewater holding impoundments and at least 54 mobile tanker trailers, each with a capacity of 21,000 gallons, used to haul used wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas well hydraulic fracturing operations. Mr. Poister said it's not clear how full they are.
"We don't know yet if the bond will be enough to do the work," Mr. Poister said. "The cleanup plan will be submitted soon and if the bond isn't enough, DEP will go after the responsible parties to pay the difference."
George Aubrey, who the DEP said is listed as the managing partner at Aquatic Synthesis, did not return phone calls requesting comment. Terra Services LLC, a partner company based in Irving, Texas, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Poister said Aquatic Synthesis, which built a water treatment facility on the old "Kay Arena" rodeo site, approximately 40 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, had trouble "almost from the beginning."
In December 2011 it started construction without first getting a permit from the DEP. In April 2012, the DEP issued Aquatic Synthesis a conditional permit that allowed it to accept wastewater, but just a month later the facility had reached its maximum storage capacity. It treated some of the wastewater it had on site in July and August last year but in September it was cited by the DEP for moving wastewater off-site for injection into deep wells, in violation of its permit.
Between September 2012 and April of this year the facility was idle, unmanned and without electrical power, and according to a DEP timeline, there were several leaks and overflows that resulted in additional permit violations and issuance of compliance orders.
In May, after several attempts to reorganize, the company told the DEP it was insolvent and forfeited its bond.
When Aquatic Synthesis announced plans to build the treatment facility, it said it would process up to 16,800 gallons a minute and employ between 60 and 100.