Westmoreland Co. Pipeline Drilling Operation Spills Clay Slurry Into Creek

WEST NEWTON (KDKA) — Clean-up operations are still underway in West Newton at the Sewickley Creek after an incident that happened over the weekend.

Crews tunneling for a new gas pipeline somehow spilled a large amount of mud and water slurry into the creek.

The problem was first noticed by a person living along the creek – a hillside hemorrhaging an enormous amount of something later identified as bentonite clay slurry. All of it was flowing into the creek.

“We hear there’s stuff leaking out of the hillside from the drilling or whatever they’re doing,” Kevin Hough said.

Hough was on scene Monday to get a look at the situation. For him, this is more than just some mud in the water.

“West Newton Sportsmen and Lick Run Hunt Club, we put trout in [the creek],” he said. “We put $4,500 worth of trout in there so far this year. We don’t wanna see something happen to it.”

Boring some 25 feet below the surface for this major natural gasline project, a subcontractor — North American Directional Drilling — was apparently pumping the slurry into the ground to ease the pipeline installation.

Tenaska, Inc. owns the pipeline project and says the substance is harmless to humans and is often used in everything from kitty litter to laxative.

“They say it’s just heavy clay, but heavy clay lies on the bottom of the creek, and it will kill the larva … and stuff that the trout eat,” Hough said.

The creek was all but ecologically dead for decades, but recently has made a remarkable comeback.

Hough says it needs to stay that way.

“Just be careful. Keep it up to standards, and keep it clean, and we’re fine with it,” he said. “We just wanna keep the creek clean and the fish healthy so the kids and people can enjoy the resources we have, you know.”

Boring operations for the new pipeline are suspended in the area until the leak and clean-up is complete.

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