MarkWest Is Still Working on Spill

With an unknown number of minnows, smallmouth bass and other species of fish killed because of MarkWest Energy’s natural gas liquids spill last month, cleanup of the site continues.

“We are making progress with the necessary repairs and are on track to begin operations of the line in the next few weeks,” said MarkWest spokesman Kevin Hawkins.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said her department cited MarkWest for “conditions not allowable in the waters of the state.” She said it was initially difficult for officials with her office to fully examine the Rocky Run area in Northern Wetzel County where the liquid was released, noting the area was filled with “vapors.”

West Virginia Division of Natural Resources District 1 Fishery Biologist Frank Jernejcic said an unknown number of fish died in Rocky Run, a tributary of Fish Creek, as a result of the spill.

“We never will know exactly how many were killed,” said Jernejcic, noting the DNR will use the wildlife composition of a comparable “reference stream” to estimate the number of dead fish.

Denver-based MarkWest processes and transports dry methane natural gas, as well as liquids – such as propane, ethane, butane, pentanes – for producers such as Magnum Hunter Resources, Antero Resources, Gulfport Energy, Noble Energy and several others.

MarkWest has invested $2.2 billion into pipelines, processing and fractionation plants in the Utica Shale area of eastern Ohio. The company also processes gas in West Virginia at the Majorsville site in Marshall County, as well as the Mobley site in Wetzel County.

Cosco said it appears a landslide affected the pipeline, which then ruptured. She said the spill involved “wet gas” or a “liquid gas” and that many natural gas liquids – byproducts of natural gas drilling such as propane, ethane, butane, pentanes and others – can vaporize when their liquid forms come in contact with water.

“MarkWest continues to remediate the site in a controlled, measured manner with full transparency and cooperation of the regulatory agencies,” said Robert McHale, another spokesman for MarkWest, when asked about the spill.

McHale said the company has removed the spilled flammable liquid from the broken pipeline, purifying it with nitrogen. He also said MarkWest has installed erosion control devices to prevent any further slippage.

Cosco said the pipeline remains out of service as MarkWest tries to move in to clean up the slip.

“The slip is in a challenging location, so MarkWest has been removing affected soils from the slip and stockpiling them on a lined area for remediation,” she said.

Cosco said the flow of Rocky Run is being pumped around the slip material, which is partially obstructing the stream channel. She said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved this activity.

“They obtained approval from Division of Water and Waste Management for a water treatment system to remove contaminants from water running out of the slip material into the stream,” she added.