Drilling operator working to correct violations

Elk County Conservation District Manager Steve Putt reported on his recent visit to the Silver Creek site after the Hunt Marcellus Operating Company spilled a large amount of bentonite into the stream, quickly making its way into a reservoir controlled by the Johnsonburg Municipal Authority.Bentonite is a form of impure clay that easily absorbs water and is used to facilitate gas drilling.On Nov. 17, two days following the incident, the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] and Putt responded to the site along Silver Creek, half a mile upstream from the reservoir."We continue to work with Hunt on that project," Putt said. "In addition to the problem with the release of the bentonite, the site had some significant erosion and sediment violations and Hunt agreed to voluntarily shut down operations until the site came into compliance."Putt and Tom McMann of the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission visited the site again the following day to survey the stream for dead fish."No dead fish were found," Putt said.Follow-up meetings were held with Hunt on Dec. 6 and 8 to discuss the progress and corrective actions for the site."The site looks a lot better than when we first went out," Putt said. "It is making huge improvements."According to Putt, Hunt has been spending a lot of time stabilizing and mulching the area.On Dec. 13, Putt also conducted a follow-up inspection of the Hunt compressor station location."One of the problems we are having is the sediment coming off that site," Putt said. "They hit a clay layer and a lot of that clay is actually going right through our filters. These clay particles are too small and they go right through the filtering devices."