Brine Dumping Investigated

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Harch Environmental Resources to cease its operations in the state after an inspector reportedly uncovered evidence it dumped brine illegally at a Belmont County farm.

The company had been contracted by Gulfport Energy Resources to dispose of the brine from its oil field operations.

According to ODNR, a field inspector reacting to an anonymous tip visited a farm on Vineyard Road near St. Clairsville on May 16 and allegedly found “standing water and what appeared to be oil based mud that had been discharged directly onto the ground.” Further evidence indicated trucks had backed up to the crest of a hillside and released fluid into a private pond, the inspector reported.

Soil and water samples collected from the farm were reportedly high in chlorine and sodium, identifying the material as oil field waste, according to ODNR.

The ODNR order requires Harch to immediately cease all illegal dumping activity, begin containment and remediation efforts on the property and halt operations at its St. Clairsville storage facility. State officials said they are consulting with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office concerning possible civil or criminal action against both Harch and Gulfport, noting it is Gulfport’s responsibility to “monitor oil field waste from inception to injection.”

Harch Environmental Superintendent of Operations Matthew Farmer said the company is cooperating with ODNR and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and has requested a hearing before ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management to demonstrate why its permit to haul brine should not be revoked.

“We’re going to work with them and do the investigation and try to get to the bottom of it. … There’s no charges that have been filed at this point,” Farmer said.

A call to Gulfport Energy was not returned.