WELLSBORO — A tanker truck owned by Beimel Transportation, of Kersey, carrying produced water — fluid returned to the surface through the natural gas drilling process — rolled over in Delmar Township early Sunday morning, breaching the cargo tank and causing 3,465 gallons of produced water to spill out into a marsh area.
The Wellsboro Fire Department responded to the scene. A member of the Department of Environmental Protection’s emergency response team was also dispatched.
“The released fluid is classified as produced water, which is a naturally-occurring, high-salinity water that is byproduct returned to the surface through the natural gas drilling process. This water was being trucked off-site for use at another well pad,” Megan Lehman, environmental community relations specialist at Williamsport DEP’s office, said.
The accident happened closely before 3 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26, about four miles west of Wellsboro, between Heise Run Road and Wolf Run Road in Delmar. The cause of the accident isn’t clear, but Wellsboro Fire Chief Lonnie Campbell said the roads were icy with a lot of black ice in the area.
“I’m certainly sure that contributed to the accident, if that wasn’t the primary factor,” Campbell said.
The truck struck the guide rail and it was a heavy rollover, Campbell said. The driver was transported to Williamsport, Campbell said.
The fire department was able to soak up the engine fuel and antifreeze, but was unable to contain the produced water. There was no loss of diesel fuel.
“There is an environmental concern with anything lost from a commercial vehicle,” Campbell said.
Lehman said the produced water could pose risks to the soil and water in the area of the accident, and could include contamination from various metals and chloride that are naturally contained in the produced water.
“There could potentially be impacts to the water and soil quality within the wetland area adjacent to the accident site and the nearby streams,” Lehman said.
The closest down-gradient stream to the site of the fluid release is a small stream named Wolf Run about 900 feet north of the accident site, Lehman said. Wolf Run drains to nearby Marsh Creek.
“Both waterways have been continuously monitored for elevated conductivity since the accident,” Lehman said. At this time, it does not appear that any waterways have been impacted. Samples have been collected from Wolf Run and the sample results are pending.
The fire department remained on scene until close to 7 a.m., Campbell said. Because it was a commercial vehicle, it couldn’t be handled with normal wrecker services. Heavy duty wrecker services were needed, plus the police, DEP and the truck company needed to be contacted.
DEP was on scene into Sunday evening and was doing product recovery into Monday with a partial road closure, Campbell said.
Lehman said “impacted materials along the roadway have been excavated and water continues to be removed from the excavation and wetlands area, and sent off-site for disposal in order to prevent further migration of the release.”
She said all parties have cooperated and are committed to completing the cleanup according to DEP’s regulations.
This is the first tanker truck accident the Wellsboro Fire Department has seen in about a year, Campbell said. When the “gas boom” occurred four or five years ago, these types of accidents were more common.