Drilling company may face settlement agreement
Elk County Waterways Conservation Officer Thomas McMann of the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission attended Monday night's Elk County Conservation District [ECCD] meeting to report on a bentonite spill that occurred along Silver Creek near Johnsonburg in November 2011.On Nov. 15, the Hunt Marcellus Operating Company spilled a large amount of bentonite into the stream. The bentonite quickly made its way into a reservoir controlled by the Johnsonburg Municipal Authority.Bentonite is a form of impure clay that easily absorbs water and is often used to facilitate gas drilling.McMann said he is preparing to offer Hunt a settlement agreement and will add up the hours he has put into the investigation, including an additional $44.78-per-hour pollution penalty that has recently been instituted by the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission."We are now adding a $44.78-an-hour penalty onto that penalty," McMann said.McMann thanked ECCD District Manager Steve Putt and Watershed Specialist Kim Bonfardine for assisting in the investigation."When I show up it's a criminal offense and I have to prepare that as if I am going to a jury trial," McMann said. "It probably won't happen, but that is the way I have to go into it and these guys [Putt and Bonfardine] volunteered and took all of the photos that day. When I did my report I attached them as evidence photos. They did a great job and now I have some really good incriminating photos."Pick up a copy of the Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.