COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
Cattle from Tioga County Farm Quarantined after Coming in Contact
with Natural Gas Drilling Wastewater
HARRISBURG -- The Department of Agriculture announced today that it
has quarantined cattle from a Tioga County farm after a number of
cows came into contact with drilling wastewater from a nearby
natural gas operation.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said uncertainty over the
quantity of wastewater the cattle may have consumed warranted the
quarantine in order to protect the public from eating potentially
“Cattle are drawn to the taste of salty water,” said Redding.
“Drilling wastewater has high
salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and
We took this precaution in
order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially
contaminated product should it be marketed for human consumption.”
Redding said 28 head of cattle were included in the quarantine,
including 16 cows, four heifers and eight calves.
Those cattle were out to
pasture in late April and early May when a drilling wastewater
holding pond on the farm of Don and Carol Johnson leaked, sending
the contaminated water into an adjacent field where it created a
The Johnsons had noticed some
seepage from the pond for as long as two months prior to the leak.
The holding pond was collecting flowback water from the hydraulic
fracturing process on a well being drilled by East Resources Inc.
Grass was killed in a roughly 30- x 40-foot area where the
wastewater had pooled.
Although no cows were seen
drinking the wastewater, tracks were found throughout the pool. The
wet area extended about 200-300 feet into the pasture.
The cattle had potential access to the pool for a minimum of three
days until the gas company placed a snow fence around the pool to
Subsequent tests of the wastewater found that it contained chloride,
iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium,
strontium and calcium.
Redding said the main element of concern is the heavy metal
strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing
The metal takes a long time to
pass through an animal’s system because it is preferentially
deposited in bone and released in the body at varying rates,
dependent on age, growth status and other factors.
Live animal testing was not
possible because tissue sampling is required.
The secretary also added that the quarantine will follow the
recommended guidelines from the Food Animal Residue Avoidance and
Depletion Program, as follows:
• Adult animals: hold from food chain for 6
• Calves exposed in utero: hold from food chain for 8 months.
• Growing calves: hold from food chain for 2 years.
In response to the leak, the
Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of
violation to East Resources Inc. and required further sampling and
DEP is evaluating the final
cleanup report and is continuing its investigation of operations at
the drilling site, as well as the circumstances surrounding the
leaking holding pond.