Sleeping on the job was to blame for two releases of production water into an unnamed tributary of Loyalsock Creek, the state attorney general's office reported. Two gas companies are charged with criminal pollution.

"A fella went in his truck and fell asleep," was the explanation that Inflection Energy Supervisor of Engineering Construction and Permitting Gregg Saunders gave to special investigators from the attorney general's office on Oct. 15, 2019.

A pump operator - who was not named in the affidavit - fell asleep for approximately 30 minutes during a production water transfer at Inflection's TLC Pad in Eldred Township on Nov. 13, 2017, according to an affidavit.

The operator was working for Double D Construction, a sub-contractor of Inflection Energy.

While the worker was sleeping, 63,000 gallons of treated "frac water" overflowed a containment tank, flowed downslope off the pad and into an unnamed tributary of Loyalsock Creek, the attorney general's office reported.

Production fluid is a mixture of frac fluid and formation water, which often contains radioactive materials, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's Radiation Sources in Natural Gas Well Activities.

Inflection Energy originally reported to the Department of Environmental Protection that the spill did not leave the pad but DEP investigators found evidence that it did, according to the affidavit.

Inflection also allegedly failed to report that a similar spill had happened the day before.

The same operator had fallen asleep the day prior, causing the tank to overflow, the affidavit stated.

"DEP's Bureau of Investigations found that the first release occurred on Nov. 12, 2017, when the Double D employee fell asleep for approximately 30 minutes. The second and much larger release occurred on Nov. 13, 2017, when the same Double D employee fell asleep again," Special Agent Hector Baez wrote.

The employee was sent for a drug test, which he passed, and then immediately fired.

The pump operator was supposed to shut off the pump when a PVC float was within two feet of the top of the tank, but Inflection Energy failed to provide safety or operational training to the Double D subcontractor, according to the affidavit. 

Secondary containments are required to prevent such spills from occurring but some of Inflection Energy's smaller containment tanks had been altered to reduce containment capacity, according to the affidavit.

Timber mats had been placed inside some of the smaller tanks, reducing their capacity, Special Agent Baez wrote.

Tests for pollutants showed extremely elevated levels of conductivity in proximity to the release, the affidavit stated.

"Typically, a reading of 1,000 umhos/cm is an indicator that a release of production water occurred. [DEP's Water Quality Specialist] had a field conductivity reading that exceeded the range of his meter, which measures up to 20,000 umhos/cm, from a seep upslope of the unnamed tributary," Special Agent Baez wrote.

On Nov. 15, 2017, conductivity readings showed a level of 3,600 umhos/cm at the location where the unnamed tributary entered Loyalsock Creek, the affidavit stated.

In two separate complaints, Inflection Energy and Double D Construction both were charged with one third degree misdemeanor count each of disturbance of waterways and watersheds, pollution of waters, and unlawful conduct; one second degree misdemeanor count of prohibition against other pollutions; and summary unlawful conduct - drilling activity causes public nuisance. 

Related reading:

Inflection Energy - docket

Double D Construction - docket