Washington County crash sends fracking water in stream

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Potentially dozens of gallons of fracking wastewater and diesel fuel spilled into Chartiers Creek at 3 a.m. Monday after a fuel tank truck caused a rear-end, chain-reaction collision with two wastewater tank trucks stopped at a traffic light on Henderson Avenue in Canton, Washington County.

The tractor-trailer owned by 1923 Transportation LLC, owned by Zappi Oil of Washington and transporting off-road diesel fuel, was traveling south on Henderson Avenue (Route 18) when it slammed into the first tank truck owned by Highland Environmental LLC in Somerset.

That truck, in turn, slammed into a second Highland Environmental truck, both stopped at Oak Grove Road. The first water tanker overturned, coming to rest on its left side in the Lowry Western Shop parking lot, where it spilled 400 gallons of the brine. The other two trucks remained on the highway.

The two tank trucks were hauling fracking water between two Range Resources wells in Washington County, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister said.

Nearly 1,300 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the fuel tank truck.

"A lot of material did make it to the stormwater management drains leading to the creek but got containment booms in the creek prior to the diesel fuel going downstream," said Ron Sicchitano, deputy director of Washington County Public Safety. He could not say what the fracking fluids contained other than brine.

The driver of fuel tank truck, who was not identified, was transferred by medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian, where his condition was not released. An employee at 1923 Transportation said the driver's injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

The wastewater tank trucks were driven by Matthew Scott Warnick of Gransville, Md., and Gregory Alan Palm of Herman, Pa.

At least one was taken to a hospital for treatment, but his whereabouts and condition were not available.

Initially it was thought that hundreds of gallons of the spilled fuel and liquids might have reached the creek, but crews later realized the amounts were significantly less, Mr. Poister said.

"We now believe most of the diesel fuel and frack water was contained on the roadway, along the shoulder of the road and in the storm drain and not as much as originally thought got into the creek," he said. "We were somewhat relieved that more didn't get in" the creek.

Weavertown Environmental Group was called to contain and clean up the spill. The intersection remained closed until about 6 p.m. Monday while storm drains were being vacuumed.

Mr. Poister said a larger amount of contaminated soil along the roadway than initially thought had to be removed and decontaminated.

Absorbent materials and sand also were used in the intersection to soak up the diesel fuel.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578.

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