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Natural Gas Operator Fined For Causing Leak Into Monongahela River

STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA -- State environmental officials have fined natural gas operator EQT for drilling into an old mine in 2017 and releasing 4 million gallons of abandoned mine drainage into the Monongahela River and surrounding wetlands in Allegheny County.

The company was drilling under State Route 136 to create a route for a pipeline meant to carry water from the river to a natural gas well site. In the process, it inadvertently hit an abandoned coal mine, which caused the leak, according to an agreement between the company and the Department of Environmental Protection that the state released Tuesday.

DEP has levied a $294,000 penalty against the company.

The leak occurred in Forward Township south of Pittsburgh in January 2017. DEP said when the company applied for a permit for the project, EQT had relied upon maps of the area that classified the status of nearby abandoned mines as either "not flooded" or "unknown."

EQT has since established new procedures to do a field investigation if the risk of a leak is unclear, according to the agreement.

Company spokesperson Linda Robertson said in an email that EQT took immediate action to stop the flow of mine drainage.

"Safety is a core value for everyone at EQT and we strive to respect and protect the land, as well as the members of the communities in which we operate," she said.

The company has also agreed to put an additional $100,000 toward a mine drainage project at the site.