Spectra was fined for Steckman Ridge compressor blowout

A Spectra compressor station in Pennsylvania blew oil over local crops in 2009, and Pennsylvania fined Spectra $22,000 for that in 2010. Spectra’s Andrea Grover told me in 2013 that everybody there was happy. Mike Benard explained actually that wasn’t the case. Benard later wrote sage words: Spectra Energy: Trust Facts Not Promises. Better to stop Spectra’s Albany compressor station before it has a chance to spew.

Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection, Press Release, 31 March 2010, DEP Fines Steckman Ridge $22,000 for Air, Water Quality Violations: Malfunctioning Compressor Discharged Industrial Oil to Surrounding Properties,

HARRISBURG — The Department of Environmental Protection has assessed a $22,000 penalty against Steckman Ridge LP for two unpermitted oil discharges in August and October 2009 at the Clearville Quarles Compressor Station in Monroe Township, Bedford County.

During compressor shutdowns on Aug. 23 and Oct. 26, natural gas was vented into the atmosphere. Malfunctions allowed lubricating oil to mix with the natural gas as it was vented and the oil was atomized into the atmosphere. The oil emissions reached surrounding properties and a nearby pond, which constituted violations of the company’s air plan approval, the Air Pollution Control Act, and Clean Streams Law. The company also failed to notify DEP of the incidents as required by department regulations.

“While both incidents were accidental, the discharges violated environmental law,” said DEP South-central Regional Director Rachel Diamond. “By waiting for up to two days to report the incidents to DEP, the company failed to act in a responsible manner protective of the public’s health and safety and the environment.”

The company hired an environmental firm to cleanup the affected neighboring sites and pond, and to test a local drinking water well to determine if it had been contaminated. All cleanup activities have been completed.

DEP issued notices of violation to Steckman Ridge for both incidents.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, or call 717-705-4700.

However, as SplashdownPA pointed out the next day:

(Splashdown calculates the fine at less than $2.72/lb. of contaminating substances… cheaper than chop meat)*

Given that a slap on the wrist like that isn’t likely to stop Spectra from more leaks, wouldn’t it be a lot safer to stop the compressor station before it starts?

Splashdown Flashback:

Thursday, February 11, 2010 report of the compressor station mishap:
Natural Gas Compressor Station Coats Farmland in Used Gear Oil
by NastassjaNoell | 02.10.2010
PhillyIMC

Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge Natural Gas Compressor Station sprayed up to 1,629 pounds of used lubricating oil onto fertile farmland and residential property in rural Pennsylvania; crops had to be burned to prevent toxic contamination of consumers. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has misinformed residents for the past six months that the oil residents found coating their blueberries, tomatoes, hay fields is non-toxic Omala Oil RL 320, but laboratory tests indicate the oil is definitively *not* Omala Oil RL 320.

A contamination report recently obtained by Philadelphia Indymedia states that up to 1,629 pounds of used gear-lubricating oil were spilled onto residences and farm fields in Bedford County, Pennsylvania this past August. Despite the presence of this report in Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) files, officials are maintaining to residents and the press that only 20 gallons of gear oil was released, additionally misleading the public to believe that the oil is non-toxic Omala Oil RL 320.

*In addition to the 1,629 pounds of used lubricating oil … 6,460 pounds of methane (including 1,151 pounds of volatile organic compounds) were sprayed into the air and estimated to have landed up to one and a half miles from the plant, coating a very fertile agricultural, fishing and hunting region of Pennsylvania with potentially toxic industrial gear oil.

Read the complete report HERE.

There’s much more at that link, but here’s a highlight:

Within a week after the equipment failure, Spectra Energy issued reports stating that residents of Monroe and Clearville Townships in Pennsylvania should wash the oil off of their crops before consumption. Local Web sites such as Spectra Energy Watch and Clearville Times expressed outrage that their crops were destroyed, water contaminated and livestock affected, with little concern from agents at the DEP. Birth defects have been noted in livestock such as domesticated geese. Currently unknown are the future diseases or cancers which may afflict residents as the chemicals’ mutations of the human cells eventually show their harmful results many years after exposure.

And archive.org still has a copy of a 29 September 2009 report from Trinity Consultants,

This letter report summarizes the air dispersion and deposition modeling analysis conducted by Trinity Consultants (Trinity) in response to an emergency shutdown (ESD) in the compressor building at the Steckman Ridge, LP facility located at 1809 Rock Hill Church Road just east of Clearville, Pennsylvania. This ESD resulted in the contemporaneous depressurization of the whole system over about a 90 second period of time and the release of methane and lubricating oil in the form of oil mist particles from one or more ESD discharge points at the facility. Trinity was retained by Steckman Ridge, LP to perform a modeling analysis for the ESD for the purposes of discerning the likely path of the released oil mist, and determining the potential direction and distance to which oil mist may have propagated.

-jsq

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