Home Environment EXCLUSIVE: Sabal Trail Pipeline Spills Covered Up by Federal Agency, Pipeline Company

EXCLUSIVE: Sabal Trail Pipeline Spills Covered Up by Federal Agency, Pipeline Company

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In the latest example of gross negligence during the construction of a natural gas pipeline, construction workers for Florida Southeast Connection (FSC) Pipeline —which is the connecting pipeline that will eventually merge with the controversial Sabal Trail Pipeline at a compressor station in Central Florida—are shown spilling drilling fluid, and possibly diesel fuel into an active water-body and wetland—inevitably contaminating Florida’s delicate aquifer and main source of drinking water.

In shocking video obtained by Truth Against The Machine—and captured originally by Florida resident and water protector Mitch Allen—construction workers can be seen dumping the contaminated water into a private cattle pasture two miles down the road from their construction site. Alarmingly, it appears that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) helped them cover it all up.

The video shows PSC Rockford, the company installing the 126-mile FSC Pipeline, improperly contained fuel tanks, drilling fluid recycling machines, and other vital equipment designed to keep the environment as untarnished as possible.

Due to the careless containment, diesel fuel and other contaminants spilled into Wetland 25 and Water-body 02B (off of US 17/92 in Loughman, Florida). In February, fluids also spilled into the storm drain system at one of the construction sites, known as the Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) site—further endangering the private wells and the Floridan aquifer system that provides 60 percent of Florida’s drinking water.

The PSC construction crew then scooped contaminated mud, loaded it into trucks and dumped it in an active, private cattle pasture two miles down the road. FERC inspectors, it appears, then deliberately failed to report the spill, the leaking and uncontained/unapproved equipment, and the contaminated water, by conveniently photographing away from the spill.

Below is the first video showing aerial footage of the HDD entry site in Wetland 25A in Loughman, Florida (if you want to know more about what an HDD site it, watch this).

Notice something weird in that water?

Look closer.

That rainbow-colored sheen is a contaminated cocktail of water, mud, diesel fuel and bentonite—a chemical used in drilling fluids and clumping kitty litter. More specifically, it’s a brand of bentonite called Bara-Kade, which according to FSC documents and its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), is a HIGHLY dangerous material that can cause lung disease, including silicosis and LUNG CANCER.

Crystalline silica—the main ingredient in bentonite—has also been associated with scleroderma and kidney disease. It contains quartz, cristobalite, and tridymite, which may become airborne without a visible cloud—making it an invisible contaminant.

Additionally, since the process of drilling horizontally on a wetland (which mostly consists of water) has unique barriers, many additives are supposed go into the bentonite, including acids to break down solids within the mud. If not properly flushed, this combination can create a rapidly-growing bacterial population, permanently affecting the taste, odor and safety of nearby water wells and the Floridan aquifer. The FSC Pipeline and the Sabal Trail Pipeline are being built directly over the Florida aquifer.

And guess what? Thanks to PSC Rockford’s failure to properly CONTAIN the spill, this material went RIGHT INTO a Florida WETLAND.

Pictured above, behind the smart guy smoking a cigarette next to a fuel tank—which is not approved by FERC—is the machine that is supposed to recycle the drilling fluid from the HDD drill. You see that clay-looking goop that looks like it’s oozing towards the workers? THAT is drilling fluid leaking. If that looks familiar, it’s because the same substance recently leaked in Ohio wetlands back in April.

But it gets worse:

The drilling equipment is leaking diesel fuel and drilling fluid onto haphazardly-placed tarps meant to “contain” any spills–which obviously isn’t working because, as you can see, ALL OF IT IS SPILLING THROUGH THE WOOD PLANKS AND INTO THE WETLAND BELOW (and yes, that is indeed a Coca-Cola can on top of that DANGER: HIGH VOLTAGE power box).

You see, all of this equipment requires fuel, and because you’re not allowed to re-fuel equipment within 100 feet of wetland, FSC had to ask for special a ‘variance’ to allow for bulk storage of fuel within 100 feet of this wetland/water-body. The problem is that there was a SPECIFIC location and a SPECIFIC amount (one) ‘bulk’ fuel tank that were allowed in the area.

Here is the variance request:

 

Request-20161221-5423 FERC PDF (Unofficial) 12/21/2016 4:25:40 PM
December 21, 2016 – Ms. Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426
Re: Florida Southeast Connection, LLC
Docket No. CP14-554-000
Variance Request

Dear Ms. Bose:
Florida Southeast Connection, LLC is hereby filing, pursuant to Environmental
Condition No. 5 of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (“Commission”) “Order issuing Certificates and Granting Abandonment”, 154 FERC ¶ 61,080 (2016) in the above referenced docket a request for a new access road at MP 1.5 in order to access the Loughman HDD location. FSC also requests a variance to allow for storage of fuel within 100 feet of a wetland at the Loughman HDD given there is no other practical location to do so. FSC has all necessary environmental approvals and landowner concurrence for the access road as set forth in the attached Variance Request Forms and related attachments. FSC respectfully requests that the Director of the Office of Energy Projects authorize use of this access road and approve the fuel storage by December 30, 2016 or as soon thereafter as practicable so that the Loughman HDD can proceed.

If you have any questions about this filing, please contact the undersigned at 561-694-4131.

Sincerely,
/s/ John Tessier
John Tessier
Senior Environmental Specialist
Cc: John Peconom, FERC

 

Here is the variance approval:

 

FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION WASHINGTON, D.C. 20426 – OFFICE OF ENERGY PROJECTS

Reply Refer To: OEP/DG2E/Gas Branch 3 – Florida Southeast Connection, LLC – Florida Southeast Connection

Docket No. CP14-554-000 § 375.308(x) December 29, 2016

Mr. John Tessier
Senior Environmental Specialist – Florida Southeast Connection, LLC – 700 Universe Boulevard, Juno Beach, FL 33418
Re: Approval of Variance Request – Access Road 34276

Mr. Tessier:
I approve Florida Southeast Connection, LLC’s (FSC) December 21, 2016 variance request to use a new access road (AR34276) in Polk County, Florida. In accordance with Environmental Condition Number 5 of the Commission’s February 2, 2016 Order Issuing Certificates and Approving Abandonment (Order), I find these project modifications to be acceptable and I have confirmed the receipt of all federal authorizations relevant to this activity.

I remind you that FSC must comply with all applicable terms and conditions of the above referenced Order. If you have any questions regarding this approval, please contact me at (202) 502-6352.

Sincerely,
John V. Peconom
Environmental Project Manager
cc: Public File, Docket No. CP14-554-000

 

The image below is the map that accompanied the approved request for fuel storage within 100 feet of the wetland. The ONE FERC-approved fuel tank and its approved location can be seen below, and we’ve added text to indicate where the equipment actually ended up:

Now, compare this image with the sad reality below. The approved fuel tank is not in the designated location, and there is a second, unapproved fuel tank right above a water-body:

So, not only were they only approved for ONE diesel tank, they didn’t even have it in the correct area. The areas they CHOSE to place the tanks allowed for the spilling of DIESEL fuel into a FLOWING WATER-BODY. And by the way, that water body (the stream in the lower-right corner of the image above) was never meant to have a designated work area above it. Yet, you can clearly see extra timber mats covering it with all sorts of equipment: the extra (unapproved) bulk fuel storage tank, water storage tanks, a drilling fluid recycle center and two pickups with truck-mounted bulk fuel ports–all set up OVER the water-body and stream-bank!

And that’s not the only place the spillage flowed.

In a lazy and extremely dangerous attempt to clean the bentonite and diesel fuel from the side of the road, PSC Rockford drove a 5,000-gallon water truck and hosed it DOWN THE STORM DRAIN, which is completely the OPPOSITE of what they were supposed to do:

Here’s what SHOULD’VE happened:

That’s right, PSC Rockford was supposed to STOP EVERYTHING in the vicinity of the contaminated area, restrict access and notify ALL environmental authorities, as required by law.

So, by now you’re probably thinking, “well, shit. These PSC Rockford guys must’ve gotten into a lot of trouble for all these corners they’re cutting and all the damage they’re causing.”

Nope.

Here’s the FERC report:

Notice anything? No? That’s because this is all they reported, making no mention of any of the spills or botched clean-up efforts. This report, plus the reports of 3 (out of 4) sinkholes that formed near the exit site were THE ONLY THINGS REPORTED BY FERC. As you can see in the image above, the field inspector conveniently angled his photo to COMPLETELY MISS THE SPILLAGE HAPPENING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THOSE TANKS AND ON THE ROAD.

Here’s the field report of the SINKHOLE caused by the drilling:

Here’s the aerial shot of the nearby sinkholes:

And if that wasn’t enough, wait ’til you hear what they did with the contaminated mud near the drilling entry point.

What you’re seeing here is a track hoe scooping up contaminated water from the drill pit and loading it into large semi-dump trucks. Mitch Allen was able to follow these trucks to a dumping site just two miles down the road.

The following footage is what PSC Rockford did with that contaminated water:

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. What you are watching is PSC Rockford literally dumping hundreds of gallons of contaminated fluids and water onto an active cattle pasture, which is located two miles south of the Loughman HDD entry site. Reminder: This ENTIRE area utilizes private wells for their daily water needs.  

Mitch Allen later learned that PSC Rockford indeed had permission by the land owner to dump all that drilling fluid there. However, it is still not known if the landowner is aware of what was REALLY in that mud. In fact, Mitch Allen witnessed a shocking scene of a recently deceased cow in that same land with its calf staring in the distance. And while we can’t confirm how that cow died, we are certain that any creature that ingests anything from this land will become sick due to the gallons of drilling fluids, additives, diesel fuel and hazardous materials dumped.

 

Interestingly enough, back in April, a similar spill happened in Ohio wetlands, when an estimated 2 million gallons of drilling fluids were inadvertently released. The difference here is that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency actually had a violations notice about the drill fluid spill (you know, like how they’re SUPPOSED to do). However, what happened here in Loughman was NOT an inadvertent spill. This was an INTENTIONAL DUMPING, and there is a deliberate attempt by FSC/Sabal Trail Pipeline owners, PSC Rockford, and even FERC to make sure the public does not know that their wetland has been contaminated. These FERC inspections failed the public’s safety, our environment, drinking water, and our human rights. The inspection report fails to mention or document the many violations and noncompliance issues at this Loughman HDD entry site, and in turn, puts the surrounding area as well as the people who live there at an imminent risk of being poisoned.

This is not acceptable.

UPDATE

TATM reached out to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and when asked why they decided to misprision and conceal a leak on Florida wetland, FERC spokesperson, Mary O’Driscoll, simply responded: ‘We do not publicly comment on these matters.’

Read more coverage by Mario Diaz on the latest Sabal Trail Pipeline news. Special thanks to Mitch Allen for providing this footage.

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