Venango Water Company / Petro Erie, Inc. Investigation
Venango Water Company (“Venango Water”) is the owner of a public water supply that serves approximately 550 persons located in Sugarcreek Borough, Venango County, within the Village of Reno. Venango Water receives its raw water supply from two nearby springs, the Bellows and Shaffer springs. Petro Erie, Inc. (“Petro Erie”) is an oil and gas operator that is the permitted operator of 14 wells located on the Lower Reno Lease in Sugarcreek Borough, Venango County. Some of the Petro Erie wells are served by a tank battery, including two 210-barrel steel storage tanks and four 100-barrel polyethylene storage tanks that are situated within secondary containment.
On July 20, 2023, Safe Drinking Water Program staff were notified by Venango Water of a suspected contamination event of its Bellows Spring source. Venango Water ceased drawing raw water from Bellows Spring and, at the direction of Safe Drinking Water Program, issued a Tier 1 public notice in the form of a “Do Not Consume Advisory” and a water conservation notice to its customers. Venango Water was also requested to begin providing bottled water to its customers.
Additionally, on July 20, 2023, Oil and Gas Program staff began to investigate a potential impact to the Bellows Spring as a result of a suspected discharge of oil and gas production fluids from a nearby tank battery associated with Petro Erie. The tank battery is situated approximately 0.5 miles upgradient of the Bellows Spring water supply collection point. Upon inspection, Oil and Gas staff observed that tank valves and secondary containment drain valves had been left open at the tank battery. Production fluids were observed inside and outside secondary containment and a visually impacted area was observed stretching 180 feet south of the secondary containment drain valve.
On July 21, 2023, the Oil and Gas Program issued an administrative field order directed to Petro Erie to address violations of the Oil and Gas Act, Clean Streams Law, and Solid Waste Management Act resulting from the discharge of production fluids from its tank battery. The field order required Petro Erie to cleanup and remediate the discharge of production fluids from their tank battery.
On August 11, 2023, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) issued an Ex Parte Emergency Order directing Aqua PA to act as receiver for Venango Water to operate the water supply on an interim basis. The ownership of the public water system remains with Venango Water; however, the daily operation, oversight, and management is fully controlled by Aqua PA. A complete copy of PUC’s Ex Parte Emergency Order can be found here. Additionally, the PUC ratified its Ex Parte Emergency Order on August 24, 2023, which can be found here.
On August 16, 2023, after making the determination that the discharge of production fluids from the Petro Erie tank battery had impacted the Bellows Spring, the Oil and Gas Program issued an administrative order to Petro Erie requiring them to complete, among other things, the following corrective actions:
- Provide temporary water for the users of the Venango Water public water system
- Submit a plan, that meets the requirements of Oil and Gas Act and the Regulations, to restore or replace the quantity and quality of water provided by the Bellows Spring
- Remediate the impacted area from the discharge at the Petro Erie tank battery
- Remediate the spill at the Lower Reno 19 well
- Submit the well record for the Lower Reno 6 well
- Submit a plan to address the improperly cemented conductor and surface casing at the Lower Reno 6 well
- Submit annual production reports, mechanical integrity reports, and other missing items for 14 Petro Erie wells
- Remove drilling supplies/equipment not needed for well production from eight of the Petro Erie well locations
Since the initial investigation began on July 20, 2023, the Oil and Gas Program has collected water samples from various locations, including the Petro Erie tank battery, Bellows Spring and Shaffer Spring.
After several weeks of distribution system sampling by Aqua PA and DEP personnel beginning about August 15, 2023, including multiple flushing events conducted by Aqua PA during the same timeframe, DEP was able to grant Aqua PA authorization to lift the “Do Not Consume” advisory on September 1, 2023. As of this time, there are no restrictions associated with the consumption of water for the customers of Venango Water Company. Aqua PA continues to operate the water system pursuant to PUC’s Emergency and Ratification Orders and to monitor the water system as required by the Safe Drinking Water regulations.
Bellows Spring – Untreated Water Source; no longer on line for use as a water source
Shafer Run Spring – Untreated Water Source; still on line and utilized as a water source
Tank Battery – Petro Erie Inc. oil and gas facility
Department of Health
Aqua PA webpage