Houston

December 16, 2013

New look at old refinery aims to assess sources of pollution

Source: http://www.news-journal.com, December 8, 2013
By: Peggy Jones

Federal oversight of the old Longview Refinery property on Premier Road entered a new phase this past week when environmental experts from across Texas met there to inspect existing groundwater monitoring wells and pick locations for new soil and groundwater testing that will begin early next year.

The new round of Environmental Protection Agency testing is aimed at determining whether toxic hazards still exist at the refinery, which operated from 1935 until 1992, and if so, to what degree. Officials said they hope results can determine the source of contamination and help them draw up a plan to remediate it.

Owner Ken Williams, under the gun to clean up the property, is making a case to the EPA that any contamination present today migrated from off-site, because there has been no activity on the property for 21 years.

In February the EPA will install 14 groundwater monitoring wells, collect subsurface soil samples from the monitoring well borings, and develop the new and existing monitoring wells according to an agreement reached between Williams and the federal agency. All data will be analyzed at the EPA laboratory in Houston.

The tour Monday was guided by Williams, president of Gregg County Refining, who told the group, “We have nothing to hide.”

They spent hours trudging through often-times shoulder-high brush to determine locations for the new test sites, most of which were selected based on topography and the flow of groundwater.…

August 7, 2013

Gas leaks from shale wells rare

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, August 5, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Minutes after Debby Kline flicked a lighter near a bathroom sink in her Portage County house in northeastern Ohio, she called the fire department.

A sink-to-ceiling flare erupted when she tried to light a candle on Dec. 21, she told a TV news show. State oil and gas regulators are still investigating what caused natural gas to bubble out of the faucet.

Kline’s Nelson Township house is within a half-mile of two Utica shale wells that state records show were drilled and fracked in October and November.

Videos of burning water in Ohio and Pennsylvania households have helped bring attention to shale drilling and fracking, but such incidents are rare. Most complaints associated with oil and gas drilling are about drinking-water wells that run dry or produce water that’s discolored, smelly or clogged with sediment.

But in some cases, natural gas from poorly cased and cemented wells can seep into drinking-water wells, making faucets spit fizzy water that some homeowners can ignite.

“We encourage people not to do that, because there is an explosive risk,” said Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said they could not discuss Kline’s case while it is being investigated. Kline also declined to comment.

Oil- and gas-industry advocates say shallow pockets of natural gas can leak into groundwater. They say drilling gets blamed for something that has been going on, unnoticed, for years.…

July 30, 2013

Issues With Fracking Could Be Eased If Industry Was More Honest, Some Say

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com, July 28, 2013
By: Kevin Begos

The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“It’s a big issue for the industry. I have called for greater transparency. That is the only way to have an honest conversation with the public,” said John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil Co. president and author of “Why We Hate Oil Companies.”

As an example, Hofmeister said, some industry leaders have suggested that the fracking boom has never caused water pollution. But while the vast majority of wells don’t cause problems, “everybody knows that some wells go bad,” Hofmeister said.

Over the last five years, advances in technology have led to a surge of drilling in states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arkansas and North Dakota. Previously inaccessible deposits of shale oil and gas have been unlocked by fracking, a process in which large amounts of water and sand along with chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart the rock.

One of the biggest promoters of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania says that while fracking opponents have exaggerated some risks, the industry hasn’t always handled key issues well, either.…

March 19, 2013

'Fracking' brings prosperity, problems to Pennsylvania

Source: The Baltimore Sun, March 9, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Times are good these days at the Linde Corp., where despite a sluggish economy nationally, the company is on a hiring binge.

The construction company, based near Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania, has seen its workforce nearly triple over the past five years as it switched from helping to build big-box stores to laying miles of natural gas pipelines connecting hundreds of gas wells drilled in the rolling rural terrain here in Susquehanna County.

“It has completely changed the complexion and future of the company,” Linde spokesman Kevin Lynn said of the natural gas boom that has transformed the region. So bright has gas made the company’s prospects that it recently gave $100,000 — its largest gift ever — to help build a new hospital near here.

Matt and Tammy Manning of nearby Franklin Forks say the gas boom has affected them, too, but for the worse. More than a year ago, the water coming out of their household well turned dark gray. Tests by the state found dangerous levels of methane in it, and regulators are investigating the cause. The couple must buy bottled water to drink, while a gas company that drilled in the area furnishes non-potable water for showers and washing clothes.

“Our house could’ve blown up with the levels we had,” said Tammy Manning, 42. “It’s very scary.”

Pennsylvania’s headlong plunge into drilling for natural gas from Marcellus shale formations deep underground has produced winners and losers — and provides a window on what could occur in Western Maryland should the drilling spread there. Businesses that cater to the energy industry have opened or expanded, while landowners who signed leases allowing wells to be drilled on their property have been able to buy new trucks and pay off loans with royalty payments from the billions of cubic feet of gas being siphoned daily across the state.…

March 8, 2013

St. Charles firm sues for $13M after green roof collapse in 2011

Source: Daily Herald (IL), March 6, 2013
By: Harry Hitzeman

St. Charles-based Aquascape has sued nine contractors, architects and construction firms for $13 million in damages after a section of a green roof at the company’s headquarters collapsed two years ago.

The collapse of a 500-foot by 60-foot section of the sloped roof, which contained prairie grasses and other plants, occurred Feb. 13, 2011, and did not injure anyone.

The damage resulted in a $13 million payout from Aquascape’s insurance carrier to cover reconstruction and damages to the Wittstock family of Wayne, which owns the company, and the cost to relocate employees for a year while the roof was repaired, attorney Greg Aimonette said.

“A roof like that should never collapse. This building was five years old when it occurred,” Aimonette said.

The lawsuit, filed recently in Kane County court, seeks damages from nine companies that worked on the 256,000-square-foot building at 901 Aqualand Way on St. Charles’ southeastern border.

The roof has a gradual slope from the high point at the building’s north end to the lowest point on the south end, which is a covered, open-air parking area that shares the same roof as the rest of the building. The roof is covered with numerous forms of vegetation to absorb rainwater and provide natural insulation for the pond company’s headquarters.…

June 18, 2012

Drinking Water Contamination and Environmental Damages Due to Hydraulic Fracking

Source: PRWeb, June 13, 2012
Posted on: http://news.yahoo.com

Terry W. Roberson, a Houston oil and gas attorney, authored “Environmental Concerns of Hydraulically Fracturing a Natural Gas Well” published in Volume 32, Page 1, 67 of the Utah Environmental Law Review (2012). The article explores whether the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracking in shale gas formations damages the environment.

Houston, TX (PRWEB) June 13, 2012
Terry W. Roberson, a Texas energy lawyer, announces the release of the article, “Environmental Concerns of Hydraulically Fracturing a Natural Gas Well” published in Volume 32, Page 1, 67 of the Utah Environmental Law Review (2012). The article explores whether the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracking in shale gas formations damages the environment. The environmental concerns and the oil and gas industry’s response to such concerns include: groundwater and underground drinking water contamination through migration, casing or cement issues, and surface spills; hydraulic fracking wastewater disposal; human and animal health; air quality and pollution; and disclosure of chemicals in hydraulic fracking fluids.

Natural gas production plays a critical role in the clean energy debate because it increases domestic energy supplies and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Shale gas, in particular, began to catch the public’s attention once natural gas drilling rigs were no longer silhouetted by the prairie, but instead pierced the urban skyline interlaced with homes, businesses, schools, and churches. The recent increased number of natural gas wells in populated areas is causing the public to question whether hydraulic fracking contaminates drinking water and affects human health.…

May 18, 2012

EPA: No water contamination from shale drilling

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 15, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Well water tests in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Dimock have not found unsafe levels of contamination from Marcellus Shale gas drilling that warrant further action, according to federal environmental regulators.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test findings released last week for 12 homes, found one with elevated levels of methane and the agency informed the residents as well as state and county agencies.

It was the fourth and last release of test results for 59 homes in the rural Susquehanna County community featured in the 2010 documentary “Gasland,” where residents say shale gas drilling has contaminated their water.

The EPA began testing water in Dimock in January.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which started drilling for Marcellus Shale gas near Dimock in 2008, and was cited and fined for faulty well casing construction by the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the EPA findings reaffirm its water test results.

“As with the previous sampling results, EPA found that Dimock drinking water meets all regulatory standards,” the Houston, Texas-based driller said in a statement. “The EPA again did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to gas development in the Dimock area.”

The DEP determined in 2010 that Cabot’s wells had caused methane to contaminate part of the aquifer under Dimock, and about a dozen Dimock residents sued Cabot. The company, however, has denied that it caused the contamination and attributed the methane in the well water to conditions existing before it began drilling.

Methane is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. It is often found in Pennsylvania groundwater and well water, and can be produced by a number of sources, including landfills, coal mines, wetlands and gas wells. While it is not considered harmful to drink, it is flammable in higher concentrations.…

November 29, 2011

Harris cracking down on companies’ leaking storage tanks

Source: http://www.chron.com, November 25, 2011
By: Mike Morris, Houston Chronicle

Harris County’s pollution control staff were eager last year to move into a new office the county was building in Pasadena. The opening was delayed for more than a month, however, after leaking underground storage tanks were found on the site and had to be cleaned up.

“I think it was just par for the course that the pollution control people would be on a piece of land that had to be (cleaned up),” said a laughing Latrice Babin, the department’s special projects manager.

County officials, tired of such cleanups and the delays that accompany them, are targeting the owners of leaking tanks, saying the companies – not taxpayers – should pay for the environmental repairs.

There are nearly 55,000 underground storage tanks in Texas and more than 7,400 in Harris County. Roughly half have been identified as leaking, though the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reports most have been cleaned up.

Many of the tanks hold gasoline or diesel; some hold other hazardous liquids, such as dry cleaning fluid. The average cleancost up for a leaking tank is $85,902, the TCEQ said.…

August 30, 2011

2 workers sue over parking garage collapse

Source: http://www.mysanantonio.com, August 26, 2011
By: Richard A. Marini

Project manager, not hospital or county, targeted.

The first lawsuit stemming from the collapse of an unfinished parking garage in February has been filed by two workers injured in the incident.

According to the suit, which names project manager Broaddus + Muñoz as the sole defendant, Joaquin Lopez, 42, and Robert Santos, 40, suffered “serious and permanent injuries to their body” as well as “anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks and depression.”

“This accident has devastated their careers, their families and their health,” said Fidel Rodriguez, the attorney representing the workers.

The multistory North Prow section of the garage was under construction the morning of Feb. 14 when it collapsed. No one was killed in the incident, but Santos and Lopez reportedly were injured, Santos more seriously. He was released from the Reeves Rehabilitation Center at University Hospital in March.

A six-month investigation by Houston-based structural and engineering firm Walter P. Moore and Associates concluded the garage collapsed because workers failed to apply grout between sections of vertical columns supporting the structure.…

July 8, 2011

Q&A: A 3-D perspective in construction

Source: http://www.chron.com, July 1, 2011
By: Katherine Feser

A Houston construction company that embraces virtual technology to cut costs has grabbed a piece of a $1.2 billion project to renovate a New York City airport.

The 22-year-old Satterfield & Pontikes Construction is using computer modeling as part of a Delta Air Lines project to renovate and expand one terminal and demolish another at JFK International. The company is helping provide the estimating, scheduling and cost-control services for the project’s first phase.

It’s doing so with building information modeling software — just as it has done with a raft of local projects that range from renovations and additions at Reagan High School to a new, environmentally friendly building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Five years ago, Satterfield & Pontikes used the same technology to complete – in only 10 months – its headquarters at 11000 Equity Drive.

That’s where co-founder, president and CEO George Pontikes Jr. recently spoke with the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser about the company, which employs more than 350 people and last year logged $462 million in revenue.…