DEP levies $51K fine for Mountaineer XPress Pipeline water pollution violations

By Mike Tony 

West Virginia environmental regulators have again fined the operator of the Mountaineer XPress Pipeline for water pollution violations.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has assessed Columbia Gas Transmission a $51,560 penalty for violations dating back to July 2020, adding to the TC Energy subsidiary’s history of environmental violations that predates the pipeline’s March 2019 in-service launch.

The violations include failing to report the release of chemical drying agents into an unnamed tributary of Rush Run in Wetzel County used to repair a slip and not installing sediment control devices in the area of the slip as indicated in a stormwater pollution prevention plan, leading to offsite sediment deposits.

Regulators found that Columbia Gas Transmission created “distinctly visible” settleable solids in the tributary, failed to address the slip in a timely manner and discharged materials toxic to man, animal or aquatic life, using Envirolime and Quicklime products that impacted the tributary’s pH levels.

“We have since conducted a root cause analysis of the incident and modified our protocols on future use of the chemical drying agent involved in the spill to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Calgary, Alberta-based TC Energy said in a statement Thursday.

The administrative consent order that the Department of Environmental Protection made public Wednesday requires Columbia Gas Transmission to submit a corrective action plan within 30 days.

Department of Environmental Protection acting spokesman Terry Fletcher declined comment on the consent order, noting that a 30-day comment period on the order is open.

The DEP fined Columbia Gas Transmission $620,841 in October 2020 and $122,350 in October 2018 for similar sediment control and water pollution violations along the 170-mile, 36-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline located in Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Doddridge, Ritchie, Calhoun, Wirt, Roane, Jackson, Putnam, Mason, and Cabell counties.

The $3.2 billion pipeline was designed to deliver 2.7 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas to Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic markets.

Note: This is a slightly shortened version of a story that previously appeared in The Charleston Gazette.