Turners Falls Water District faces environmental issues along proposed pipeline path

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/18/2016 10:03:31 PM

TURNERS FALLS — An environmental consulting firm has advised Turners Falls Water Department that some lubricants and cleaners added to natural gas traveling through the proposed Northeast Energy Direct project could pose a risk to the water supply.

The firm advises proposing several restrictions on Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s plans to cross part of the Montague Plains aquifer and the wellhead protection area of the district’s Hannegan Brook Well.

To do that, the department’s water commissioners filed the four-page report Friday by GeoInsight Environmental Strategy and Engineering with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is preparing an environmental impact analysis on TGP’s proposed 416-mile Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.

In it, the consultants recommend that the Water Department requests FERC impose as conditions on any issuance of a project permit that hazardous chemicals and oils, such as those used for cleaning or lubricating the pipeline, be prohibited.

Among its other recommendations, the firm says documentation of regular pipeline cleaning and leak testing should be made available to the district, that hydrostatic test water used during construction should not be discharged into the wellhead protection area, and that no sumps, clean-outs or “other penetrations” should be located there.

Plans filed by the pipeline company last November surprised local officials because of ground borings just east of where the pipeline would pass — about 40 feet north of Green Pond and just west of Green Pond Road. Another entry-exit point is shown about 300 feet east of Route 63. Those two points, with workspace designated around them, appear to be near the boundaries of Water Department property.

Water commissioners raised concerns with the consultants on Dec. 16 over potential threats to the Turners Falls water supply, and asked for an evaluation of potential risks from the project.

The proposed NED path would cross the district’s wellhead protection area for about 2,800 feet, about 1,800 feet of which would use horizontal directional drilling techniques, the consultants reported. The remaining portion would use a more traditional open-trench approach.

The horizontal drilling begins to the west on 1.5 acres of water district property and ends to the east on 4.5 acres of electric utility property, according to the report. There is also an approximately six-acre construction area on Water Department property, all about a half-mile north-northeast of the Hannegan Brook Well.

“Based on the information reviewed, it is not clear whether cleaning, lubricating, rust inhibitors or other products will be introduced into the pipeline,” the report says. “Hazardous chemicals were not listed in materials provided by Tennessee Gas describing the fluids to be utilized in the HDD process.”

Based on the company’s “knowledge of geology of the area,” it reports that blasting is not likely to be needed in the wellhead protection area, but “will possibly be needed” on the area’s eastern side.

When it comes to perchlorate, considered a “likely carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency, the report warns that blasting management procedures described in the Environmental Construction Plan for Massachusetts “does not exclude the use of perchlorate in blasting agents,” and adds that there have been several cases in Massachusetts where public water supplies have been “impacted with perchlorate from blasting agents that were used in bedrock up-gradient of aquifer protection zones.”

“Blasting agents containing perchlorate should not be used” in the wellhead protection area or upslope to its east, advises GeoInsight, among other recommendations for inclusion in conditions to be set by FERC. Also, the Water Department should be provided with blasting plans and best management practices being employed during construction for comment and should be given the opportunity to observe blasting procedures.

The consultant also advises that the Water Department call for independent inspection of construction activities to verify that contractors are adhering to best-management practices for blasting and horizontal directional drilling and allowed the opportunity to participate in those inspections.

The practices should ensure that fuel and lubricating oil not be stored in the wellhead protection area and that equipment cleaning or servicing should not be done in the protection area, the firm advises.

Kathryn Eiseman, director of the Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network, raised objections to the consultants’ report. “They relied on information TGP provided about the composition of conventional gas, even though this pipeline would carry ‘unconventional gas,’” with undisclosed chemical components. Also, she said, the study did not look at impacts from the pipeline corridor acting as a conduit, potentially connecting existing contaminated sites to the aquifer. She also raised concerns about bentonite clay, a slurry-like drilling mud, and the suffocating impacts it can have in wetlands if released through fractured bedrock in a condition called a “frac-out.”

Richard Wheatley, a spokesman for TGP parent company Kinder Morgan, reacted to GeoInsight’s recommendations in a written statement saying, “We continue to work through the FERC and state permitting process, and the recommendations will be considered as part of the process.”

The project would cross Plainfield, Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Northfield and Warwick on its path from Pennsylvania shale gas fields to Dracut, north of Lowell.

Plans also call for horizontal drilling under the Deerfield River twice, as well as the Connecticut and Millers rivers. The “trench-less” pipe installation method would also be used to pass under Interstate 91, Routes 2 and 63, the East Deerfield rail yard and various electric transmission lines and railroad tracks.

The approach is used, according to TGP’s filing with FERC, “where traditional open cut excavations are not feasible due to sensitive resource areas or logistical reasons. (In this way,) open cut trenching and equipment disturbance within sensitive resource areas are not necessary, and, as a result, environmental impacts on sensitive resource areas are minimized.”

Wheatley said that in this instance, horizontal drilling was prescribed because the proposed pipeline route traverses two railroad tracks — the New England Central and Boston & Maine — within close proximity, presenting “specific installation issues that are mitigated by this method of installation.”

The water supply protection area supplies water to over 5,000 households in the Turners Falls Water District, and the route impacts at least two wetlands and crosses two major rivers in Montague, according to Montague Selectmen, who have expressed concern to FERC over “contamination of public water supplies and damage to wetland and water bodies.”

Michael Brown, Turners Falls Water District superintendent, could not be reached for comment. But he told The Recorder last September that among his concerns is the type of slurry used behind the drilling to keep entrance/exit the hole open.

You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 269




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