By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Nexus pipeline officials have some explaining to do.
Bowling Green officials were satisfied with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s response to a spill last month of 20,000 gallons of non-toxic drilling fluid north of the city. But the response of the pipeline company has left the city with some questions.
For example, City Council members Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette have asked:
– When did the spill happen? Ohio EPA officials have said the spill was reported on July 17. However, emails from Nexus officials have stated the spill occurred on July 16.
– How quickly did Nexus report the spill? Was the reporting done in a reasonable timeframe?
– What kind of bentonite was involved in the spill? Though non-toxic, if it was the acidic form, are measures being taken to mitigate and monitor potential harm?
– Does the Ohio EPA consider the Nexus decision to halt cleanup efforts at night a reasonable response?
– Should Nexus crews have been prepared to work through the night?
When contacted by Bowling Green Independent News about some of these questions, Nexus officials declined to talk on the phone and asked for the questions to be submitted in writing.
A Nexus emailed statement said the pipeline company “remains committed to safe and environmentally responsible practices, including constructing the project in accordance with applicable environmental permitting requirements.”
Though previous emails from Nexus stated the spill occurred on July 16, when asked about the conflicting dates, Adam Parker, who handles stakeholder engagement for Nexus gas transmission, changed the date to July 17 at approximately 6 p.m.
The Ohio EPA has stated that Nexus crew members left the scene of the spill rather than continuing to clean up.
Parker stated the Nexus crews temporarily suspended activities due to safety concerns related to working along the busy road after dark.
When asked if Nexus has a policy in place requiring workers to continue with cleanup until it is completed, Parker responded with the following statement:
“The project’s various plans and permits were filed and approved by state and federal agencies prior to the beginning of construction. On the evening of the spill, NEXUS promptly notified the Ohio EPA, installed multiple layers of containment and worked to complete the recovery of clay and water in accordance with those plans. Nexus crews returned the following morning to continue the cleanup to the OEPA’s satisfaction. NEXUS communicated all steps taken to Ohio EPA throughout the response effort and the Ohio EPA determined that recovery efforts were complete and no further action was required.”
However, the pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA not only for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid, but will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill.
The drilling fluid spill into Liberty Hi ditch occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River.
The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA.
Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in drilling fluids to help lubricate and cool the cutting tools. Efforts were made to dam the ditch to keep the drilling fluid from reaching the Maumee River.
However, the Nexus crew did not follow the Ohio EPA’s request to continue cleanup throughout the night, Lee said. The Nexus contractors left the site on the evening of July 17 – so the EPA had to hire environmental contractors to continue cleanup efforts overnight. Sand bag dams, silt fence, straw bales and a filter fence were all used to contain the spill.
In the days following the spill, Nexus vacuum trucks were used to remove the bulk of the material from the stream, Lee said.
“Ohio EPA issued a notice of violation to Nexus for the unauthorized discharge to waters of the state and will bill Nexus for the cost of the agency’s environmental response staff hours, state contractor and materials,” an EPA press release stated.
During last week’s Bowling Green City Council meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards said he was very comfortable with the Ohio EPA’s response to the spill which occurred 1.5 miles downstream from the city’s water treatment plant. The city was quickly notified about the incident, and took action to ensure the water treatment plant was not affected.
Edwards said Shannon Nabors, regional district director of the Ohio EPA in Bowling Green, handled the spill appropriately.
Once Nexus crews thought they were done with the cleanup and containment, Ohio EPA officials walked the area and identified certain areas that needed further cleanup. Nexus workers worked on those areas to finish the job.
“The cooperation and response demonstrated by the Ohio EPA could not have been better,” he said in his report to council.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources was called in for an assessment by the Ohio EPA, and confirmed that the site was cleaned up to satisfaction.
The mayor also commended the responses of Mike Fields, superintendent of the city’s water treatment plant, and Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert.