Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes
Ken Dufalla sits at a table inside Laverne’s Restaurant on Route 188 in Waynesburg, PA. The former park ranger, 65, is sporting a camouflaged trucker’s hat and enjoying Laverne’s cream of chicken and biscuits with mashed potatoes. It’s midmorning, between the breakfast crowd and the lunch patrons. Waiters and waitresses are attentive and the coffee is flowing.
Before long, Dufalla is joined by a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, 67-year-old Ken Gayman, who dons a black and gold USMC ball cap. The two former Beth-Center High School wrestling practice combatants sprinkle the conversation with passages from the Constitution and speak about defending land and property. The two men are members of an association, but it’s not the Tea Party.
Dufalla and Gayman are members of the Izaak Walton League of America, one of the earliest conservation organizations in the country and according to the national Web site, “formed in 1922 to save outdoor America for future generations.” If the stereotypical environmentalist is still imagined as sandal-wearing and tree-hugging, Dufalla and Gayman will quickly wipe away such caricatures. They are a couple of blue-collar guys, no different than anyone else in Greene County. They simply see what’s going on around them and they don’t like the looks of it.
Dumping Onto the Streets at Night
On March 17, 2011 Greene County resident Robert Allan Shipman and his company, Allan’s Waste Water Service Inc., were charged with illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater, along with restaurant grease and sewer sludge across six counties in Pennsylvania from 2003-2009. Pennsylvania is one of several states that sit atop the gas-rich underground rock formation the Marcellus Shale. Hydraulic fracturing, the process used for retrieving the gas, is a water-intensive drilling method that not only requires massive volumes of water to unlock the gas, but also generates millions of gallons of wastewater when the drilling is done.
The two-year investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office resulted in a total of 98 criminal counts charged against the 50-year-old Shipman and an additional 77 charges levied at his company. Said Nils Frederiksen, spokesman for the attorney general’s office, “He was pouring the stuff in any hole he could find.”
Most egregiously, the grand jury presentment detailed how when the demand for Allan’s Waste Water services grew in the summer of 2007, as a result of an uptick in production water (wastewater produced by gas well drilling operations that may contain toxic chemicals) from CNX Gas Co. LLP, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, a company Shipman was hauling for, “Shipman showed the drivers how to leave open the gas well valves and ordered them to discharge production water onto the ground and/or into the nearby waterways.” Drivers’ testimony added, “This activity would typically occur after dark or during heavy rain so that no one would observe the illegal discharge.”
According to the presentment, the investigation of Shipman began after a client of his grew suspicious of illegal dumping after an in-house audit “revealed a large discrepancy in the amount of sludge received by Allan’s Waste Water and the amount of sludge disposed” by the company at treatment facilities. A review of reports by the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that over 170,000 gallons of sludge were unaccounted for from June 2006 to the summer of 2007.
Drivers of Allan’s Waste Water testified at the grand jury that Shipman “directed them to mix different wastes in their trucks,” a process they termed “cocktailing.” The mixed waste of production water and sewage sludge was subsequently discharged into creeks, ponds and at various Municipal Authorities in the area. Waste was also disposed of at the Morris Run airshaft, located at the abandoned Blacksville Number 1 Mine, a coal mine owned by Consol Energy, which ultimately releases into Dunkard Creek, a stream that flows between Pennsylvania and West Virginia for 37 miles before its confluence with the Monongahela River. Consol had permits from the EPA to dump production water (consisting of coal bed methane water only) into the Morris Run airshaft. Shipman’s company was not permitted to dump at the site.