BETHLEHEM TWP. — The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is again raising concerns over Rover Pipeline’s construction work under the Tuscarawas River and near the site of a drilling fluid spill in April.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month gave Rover permission to resume boring a path beneath the river for the pipeline.
Rover is an interstate natural gas pipeline project, and the portion that crosses Stark, Carroll and Tuscarawas counties consists of two 42-inch diameter pipelines. One of the two mainlines is finished and carrying natural gas.
No spills of drilling fluid have been reported since boring started for the second line under the river, but 146,000 gallons of slurry have been lost down the pilot hole, according to the letter from Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water.
"We are deeply concerned this second drill under the Tuscarawas River is heading towards a similar outcome which resulted in the previous release to the environment," according to the letter.
In April, 2 million gallons of drilling slurry pumped underground surfaced in a wetland next to the river and led FERC to suspend some boring work temporarily. Cleanup was complicated when inspectors discovered the clay-based slurry was tainted with diesel fuel. FERC continues to investigate how diesel fuel got into the slurry.
According to Ohio EPA’s letter, Rover said the April spill "essentially occurred overnight where pressure built up from the loss of drilling fluids over time."
On Wednesday, Ohio EPA inspected the boring operation under the river, and the letter requested daily updates on the amount of fluid lost, leak inspections and other technical data.
"Our overarching question is when this pilot hole, which is continually losing drilling fluids, will be abandoned ... and a new point of entry be considered," the letter reads.
Rover is flying drones to monitor for surface leaks and recovery equipment is currently staged in the event of a spill, the letter noted. Agency spokesman James Lee said Ohio EPA remained in "continuous communication" with FERC and Rover regarding the issues cited in the letter.
Rover spokeswoman Alexis Daniel didn’t address specific questions about Ohio EPA’s letter, but said the company continues to coordinate with FERC on the boring projects and is following contingency plans approved by FERC and Ohio EPA.
"Safety is our first priority — the safety of the community, the safety of the environment and the safety of our employees," Daniel wrote in an email.
Texas-based Energy Transfer is building the $4.2 billion Rover Pipeline, which will carry 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to markets in Canada and the United States.
The state is suing Rover in Stark County Common Pleas Court over multiple environmental violations during pipeline construction.