The EPA and DEP alleged that Chesapeake impounded streams and discharged sand, dirt, rocks and other fill material into streams and wetlands without federal permits. The company was constructing well pads, impoundments, road crossings and other facilities related to its natural gas extraction activities.
In a news release, the federal government said the violations covered by the settlement occurred at 27 sites located in Boone, Kanawha, Lewis, Marshall, Mingo, Preston, Upshur and Wetzel counties. Federal officials allege that the company's actions affected 12,000 linear feet of streams, or about 2.2 miles, and more than three acres of wetlands, according to the release.
The EPA said it discovered the violations through information provided by the public and routine inspections at the sites. In addition, Chesapeake voluntarily disclosed potential violations at 19 of the sites after an internal audit.
In 2010 and 2011, the EPA issued administrative-compliance orders for violations at 11 of the sites. Since that time, the company has been correcting the violations and restoring those sites, the EPA said.
The settlement also resolves alleged violations of state law brought by the DEP. The state of West Virginia is a co-plaintiff in the settlement, and will receive half of the civil penalty, the EPA said.
In a related case, in December 2012, Chesapeake pleaded guilty to three criminal Clean Water Act violations for actions at one of the sites also covered by the new civil settlement.
Chesapeake paid $600,000 in fines in that plea deal after admitting to illegally discharging 60 tons of crushed stone and gravel into Blake Fork, in Wetzel County, to create a roadway and improve access to a drilling site.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.