ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Kirke Porterfield believes officials with Harch Environmental meant no harm, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources fined the company $100,000 for dumping natural gas frack waste into a pond on Porterfield's farm.
The ODNR temporarily suspended Harch from hauling brine in June after an inspector found evidence of illegal activity upon visiting Porterfield's farm along Vineyard Road on May 16. The visit was prompted by an anonymous tip.
Following investigations and negotiations, ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce said the agency reached a "compliance agreement" with Harch that will require the company to pay a $100,000 fine.
Photo by Casey Junkins
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources suspended Harch Environmental from operating in June amid allegations of illegal natural gas brine dumping at a farm near St. Clairsville. The ODNR has decided to fine Harch $100,000 for the action.
"Harch did the cleanup before they even knew what happened. They figured they would get fined," said Porterfield, who added he had an agreement for Harch to pay him $200 per load to dump dirt on the 640-acre farm. He added that Harch - with offices located along Ohio 331 and Ohio 9 near St. Clairsville - is a "great company to work with."
It appears the situation has been resolved, but additional action is possible.
"We reserve the right to pursue other criminal or civil actions against them," said Bruce. "But we do have this compliance order that they have agreed to."
According to the order, the ODNR determined that someone working for Harch dumped the frack waste "down a hill, and into a pond."
"It looks like they just dumped it over the hill as an easy way to get rid of it," Bruce said.
Brine waste, or fracking waste, is created when natural gas drillers pump millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into wells. During fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the shale, much of this water - which by this time also contains naturally occurring clay and metals - flushes back up through the well. This is the fracking waste.
In addition to the $100,000 fine, the order compels Harch to suspend all brine hauling operations for a 30-day period, which began Sept. 5; to send the ODNR daily reports on what the company is hauling for six months, once the suspension is lifted; and not to store, recycle, treat or process brine without ODNR approval.
A Tuesday call seeking comment from Harch was not returned. However, the company's website states that Harch focuses on "safety with protecting our clients and safeguarding our environment."