LEROY TWP. - The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed Thursday that it has been overseeing the cleanup of a 4,700-gallon hydrochloric acid spill that occurred on Wednesday afternoon at the Chief Oil and Gas Yoder well pad on Southside Road in Leroy Township.

DEP said the incident caused a minor fish kill.

According to a news release from Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator with DEP, the cause of the spill appears to be related to valve failure on a tank holding the acid, but remains under investigation. After the incident was brought to DEP's attention by Chief, two members of DEP's Emergency Response Team were "immediately" dispatched to the site. The well pad is located along Southside Road near the intersection with Crofut Road.

A security guard working at the entrance to the well pad Thursday referred all questions to Kristi Gittins, Vice President of Industry & Public Affairs for Chief Oil & Gas.

The news release from DEP continues by stating that "the acid breached containment and flowed off the well pad."

"Some of the acid was collected in a sedimentation pond, while the remainder flowed through a field and some reached a small tributary to Towanda Creek causing a minor fish kill. Dams were constructed in the tributary before any acid reached Towanda Creek."

In addition, the news release notes that Chief contractors applied lime to the acid to neutralize it prior to recovery, and interceptor trenches were installed to ensure it did not reach Towanda Creek. Excavation of contaminated soil began the evening of July 4 and is continuing, according to DEP.

DEP Oil and Gas and Environmental Cleanup program staff were on site Thursday collecting soil and water samples and continuing to monitor the cleanup, the news release noted.

When asked for comment, Gittins provided the following response from Chief:

"An HCL release of approximately 4,700 gallons occurred at approximately 1 p.m. on July 4 at the Yoder well site in Leroy Twp, Bradford Co. The release was discovered by personnel on site. DEP and the Bradford County EMS were notified and response measures were implemented."

She continued, "It is important to note that the majority of the release, around 4,000 gallons, was held to the initial containment area on the pad site. All pad sites are lined with a thick plastic so any inadvertent release of fluids can be remedied at the pad site. Approximately 700-800 gallons left the initial containment area and traveled into a sediment pond, which is designed as an additional safety measure to contain any runoff from the pad site. Approximately 50 gallons left the sediment pond but appears to have remained localized to a small plunge pool next to the sediment pond."

Gittins said that the appropriate cleanup crews were quickly dispatched and are on site working.

"Additional berms of precautionary protection were put in place as crews were neutralizing and vacuuming the pond. The release was quickly contained and cleanup is near completion. After cleanup is complete, any needed remediation efforts will be determined and that work will begin."

She stated that there were no drilling or fracking operations taking place at the time of the spill. According to Gittins, landowners in the immediate area were notified; however, there was never an issue of safety and no evacuations were needed.

She continued, "The release is under investigation by Frac Tech, Chief and the DEP, but it appears that a valve on the back of the tanker containing the HCL was found partially open which resulted in the release."

"There is no evidence that any runoff entered Towanda Creek and all pH readings have been normal. DEP and the Fish and Boat Commission have been on-site and, along with Chief, are continuing to monitor. There were a few dead minnows observed, localized in the small plunge pool, but there was no evidence of HCL and normal pH readings and live fish were noted further downstream in the tributary that leads to Towanda Creek."

She stressed that there was "no evidence of any runoff into Towanda Creek," and said that Chief and DEP will continue to take readings and monitor.

Gittins clarified that Chief contractors also applied soda ash, in addition to lime, to neutralize the acid prior to recovery.

When asked by the Review why the acid is on site, Gittins said that it is used during the frac process.

"We had just finished the frac on the Yoder well," she said.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.