Environmental Project

Full Biological Study and Investigation

Confidential Hydrocarbon Exploration Company Northeast Marcellus Shale Region

Solution Overview


Confidential hydrocarbon exploration company

Business Challenge:

  • Sudden appearance of aquatic mortalities in close proximity to natural gas exploration activities


  • Sampling and analysis of water body conditions to determine cause and effect


  • Determination of agricultural causes, not exploration activities, as the culprit, allowing client to resume work on site
  • Development of a mitigation plan to prevent future ecosystem disruptions


A fish kill, where a large number of fish die in a relatively short period of time, had been reported in the area around the exploration activities in proximity to a natural gas well pad operated by the client. The landowner observed dozens of fish mortalities along the shoreline of a 25‑acre pond along with the presence of a heavy algae bloom.

A formal complaint was made to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). Rapid response was critical to determine the cause, and Apex staff was immediately engaged to conduct a full biological study of the pond and provide an estimated budget to remedy.


Apex engaged our fisheries and aquatic biologist as the subject matter expert and lead for the investigation.

After coordination with the state and landowner, a pre-dawn dissolved oxygen study was conducted with the use of a staff watercraft and a multi-meter to collect data across the surface water. Data was collected for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and turbidity. Speciation of fish mortalities was required along with observation of benthic activity on the soft bottom of the pond.


After field data was tabulated and processed for review, along with analytical data from water samples collected, an assessment of the surrounding areas, influent and effluent flows, and weather data for the preceding two weeks, it was determined that this event was not caused by natural gas-related activities, but instead was an oxygen deficiency caused by eutrophic conditions, and nutrient loading in the pond due to agricultural contributors above the pond basin. A summary report was provided to the client, which included a proposal to install an aeration system in the pond to help mitigate potential future imbalances in water quality.

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