IBy JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Nexus pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid into a ditch north of Bowling Green. The company 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.
Ohio EPA staff responded on the evening of July 17 to investigate a Nexus pipeline site where the drilling fluid had been released into Liberty Hi ditch in Middleton Township. The spill 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.
The EPA notified Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert, who in turn notified the city of Bowling Green, since the city’s water treatment plant is located upstream of the spill.
Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in drilling fluids to help lubricate and cool the cutting tools. The substance is not hazardous, Gilbert said. However, bentonite creates a milky appearance in the water, so the EPA wanted the material removed from the ditch.
“It’s not a huge issue environmentally, but more of a visual thing,” Gilbert said. 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.
The spill reportedly had no adverse effects on wildlife, Gilbert said.
As soon as Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett received the call from Wood County EMA, he notified the city water plant superintendent since the incident was close to the plant.
“They were not concerned about any impact on our water service or the river,” Fawcett said. The spill involved non-toxic material and occurred downriver from the water treatment plant.
However, the plant superintendent made sure the water wasn’t affected.
“There was no impact to the Bowling Green water treatment,” Fawcett said.
Fawcett also notified Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and City Council President Mike Aspacher.
“I’m satisfied with the notification and the communication,” when the spill occurred, Aspacher said. “The city was notified when the accident took place.”
However, if further pipeline incidents occur in the future, Aspacher said he will make sure they are reported to all City Council members. “In hindsight, based on the level of concerns” about the pipeline, all council members will be notified, he said.
Council member Daniel Gordon expressed dissatisfaction that all council members weren’t informed of the spill. He was also critical of Nexus for failing to notify local residents of the spill and refusing to comply with EPA directives to clean up the site – “again demonstrating contempt for public health and safety, the law, business ethics, and the public trust,” he wrote.
“I spent a lot of time trying to stop or at least reroute this pipeline because I had zero trust or hope that incidents like this would not happen,” Gordon stated.
This is the first spill reported by Nexus in Wood County, Gilbert said.
A call placed to Nexus media relations from BG Independent News was not returned.