Talisman frackwater pit in NE BC leaked for months, kept from public; Are Talisman, the energy regulator and BC government lying when they claim groundwater never contaminated by fracking in BC?

Talisman frackwater pit leaked for months, kept from public by Damien Gillis and Will Koop, Common Sense Canadian, November 18, 2013 That said, the above aerial image of the pits, taken on March 28, conflicts with Mr. Glover’s statement that the company began emptying the pond back in January after the sensors detected a leak in the inner membrane. At least two months later, there is no visible sign that the company has even begun pumping out Pond A. …

It is unclear when Talisman did begin emptying the pit, but Mr. Glover claims it was fully drained by the beginning of June, after which the company removed the liners and discovered the outer layer had failed too, meaning the pit had been leaking for close to 5 months into the soil and groundwater at that point. In a November 8 email to Hudson’s Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson, responding to questions from a concerned community member, Glover said, “…in June we informed the OGC that we were taking the pond out of service.” Yet, in an advisory emailed to media last week, the regulator stated, “The BC Oil and Gas Commission is investigating a leak in a Talisman frackwater storage pond that was reported by the company on July 22, 2013.“

We asked Mr. Glover to account for the discrepancy between to two conflicting dates when the spill was reported to the OGC. He explained that the first notification, in June, was an informal “heads-up” from Talisman’s regulatory compliance officer. The July date constitutes the company’s “official self-disclosure” to the regulator. It would take another two and a half months for the OGC to issue a formal order to Talisman “to delineate the extent of soil and groundwater impact in and around Pond A and provide the results to the OGC,” according to Glover.

The OGC has declined repeated requests to furnish us with a copy of the order, but has acknowledged the date was October 4 – with a deadline of November 29 for more detailed reporting of remediation and test results on the soil and groundwater. The above sequence illustrates some serious gaps in the regulatory framework for the industry, with companies left to self-report such incidents, and an apparent lack of urgency on the part of the OGC for mandating and monitoring emergency clean-up measures. …

The company has been unclear about the nature of contaminants in the frackwater, only acknowledging the presence of chlorides, sodium and dissolved solids. In his email to the Hudson’s Hope mayor, Mr. Glover pointed to the province’s “FracFocus” tool, a database where companies operating in BC are now mandated to file chemicals used in their fracks. However, companies are allowed to keep trade secrets and use other tricks to avoid full disclosure. 

For instance, we examined the FracFocus list of ingredients used in Well 93-i of the Altares field, directly across the road from the frack fluid storage pits, as an example of the toxics potentially contained in Pond A. While contractor Schlumberger lists most of the chemicals it used in the well, it leaves out some critical details and procudt information (known as CAS Registry Numbers). And since the FracFocus tool has only been in place since November 2011 in BC, there is data missing for a number of older wells. For example, Talisman only reports chemicals used in 73 out of 111 of its wells in the Altares field. The company’s total data for the 73 Altares wells indicates it used 993,832 cubic metres (almost a billion litres) of water for fracking purposes – and about 10,000 cubic metres (10 million litres) of toxic additives.

Moreover, the FracFocus tool does not include drilling additives, which, as revealed in a recent peer-reviewed, published paper, can be just as dangerous as fracking fluids.

We asked Calgary-based Talisman spokesperson Berta Gomez specifically if the water contained the known carcinogen benzene, to which she replied via email, “Yes the produced water does contain low level concentrations of Benzene. Our sampling has shown an average concentration of 0.465 mg/L with a range of 0.211 – 0.824 mg/L,” though she maintains that’s well below the allowable concentration under BC’s Contaminated Sites Regulations.

Finally, neither the OGC nor Talisman have yet to reveal to the public the naturally occurring toxics released within the fracked flow back water – such as mercury, arsenic, barium, strontium, chromium, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes), radium, uranium, and whatever other dangerous underground substances are being dredged up by fracking (read our recent story about dead cows and radiation connected to fracking near a farm in Alberta). …

Of particular concern is the indication on a provincial mapping service, iMap BC, that a stream runs near the four waste pits (shown on the graphic below) – which are perched at the top of a hill. Pond A rests at the eastern edge nearest the downhill slope. The company maintains the penetration of fluids into the soil has been limited to .75 metres in depth and Mr. Glover says there is no visible stream in that location. That said, government data suggests otherwise and the location of the pond at the top of a hill is cause for concern.

The incident is highly inconvenient for industry and government…. BC Minister for Natural Gas Rich Coleman penned an op-ed in The Georgia Straight one week after the story of Talisman’s leak was broken by The Globe and Mail  boldly declaring:

The net result of both our strong regulatory framework and our geology is that B.C.’s water supply is protected and safe. It has never been contaminated as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

OGC spokesperson Hardy Friedrich echoed these comments to the media as late as last week, on November 13, stating “Water has never been contaminated as a result of hydraulic fracturing in B.C.” And yet, both the OGC and Talisman acknowledge there has been groundwater contamination here from the leaking Pond A.

The regulator was also quick to defend the industry’s record in its media lines surrounding the leak, stating, “There have been no similar incidents in 2013. There is only one similar instance in the past five years. It occurred in 2011. In that incident the leak was immediately detected, the storage pond drained and the area remediated.” It is nevertheless incorrect to state that water has never been contaminated from fracking in BC. Moreover, as this incident demonstrates, the regulatory system in place isn’t designed to detect contamination, so we have no real sense of how many other incidents have gone undetected or unreported. As of 2012, the OGC had all of ONE hydrologist on staff.

[Refer also to:

BC OGC orders closure, drainage and remediation of Talisman’s leaking toxic frac waste water pit, Company says risks low but tests show soil and groundwater contaminated with chemicals ]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.