Wetlands cleanup of bentonite spill nearly complete

FRANKLIN SQUARE – Cleanup at the bentonite spill in the wetlands just off state Route 558 in Salem Township should be completed in a few days, company officials said Monday.

The Ohio EPA was advised on May 19 there was a problem at the site that is about one mile east of state Route 45.

Two silk containment fences were placed around the area and the EPA issued a regulatory response notice to the responsible party, Access Midstream, of Oklahoma City.

There is no hazard or danger of it getting into the air, the EPA said, and the main concern is damage to the wetland, and wetland habitat.

The company is directionally drilling and laying a gathering pipeline to transport oil and gas products from area wells to larger collection lines for transport out of the area.

Steve Hall, the manager of environmental health and safety for Access Midstream, said the pilot hole was completed and once the pipe is pulled through the established hole the clean up will be finalized.

Explaining that the borepath is determined by right-of-ways obtained from landowners willing to accommodate the line, Hall said the bentonite is being vacuumed out and recycled back into the drilling process.

Once the path is established the boring rig sets in and a couple of passes are made, one of which at the wetland’s site, was “inadvertent,” Hall said.

A small amount of bentonite clay slurry is used to lubricate the cutting tool head and after the water dries out it cakes and solidifies around the hole, acting as a sealant.

The pipe is currently being “pulled through” Hall said explaining the length under the wetlands is just shy of 2,000 feet and the deepest point in the arc is 100 to 120 feet down.

The total length of the line is 6,400 feet.

Hall said a reamer opens the hole a couple of inches wider than the radius of the pipe and over the length of the borepath there is a “gentle bend.”

“The bentonite slurry is pushed through … it’s primary purpose is it moves solid rock back to the drill rig to keep it clean, and partly to cool it,” Hall explained, adding bentonite fancy word for dirt.

He said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends it for building ponds, for a impermeable layer.

“It’s basically environmentally sound,” he said.

He added, “I know that in the process, they are sucking out all the bentonite” and will make sure there is no additional bentonite there.

Due to the ongoing nature of the incident the EPA and the company is monitoring the cleanup progress.

He said they will being pulling the pipe through for the next couple of days.

“We’re talked to the contractor and it expects to pull the pipe through in the next few days.”

He said when the silk fence is dismantled, the cleanup work will be completed.