DEP Asks Gas Drillers To Stop Giving Treatment Facilities Wastewater

At the direction of Gov. Tom Corbett, acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer this week called on all Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operators to cease by May 19 delivering wastewater from shale gas extraction to 15 facilities that currently accept it under special provisions of last year’s Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) regulations.
           “While the prior administration allowed certain facilities to continue to take this wastewater, conditions have changed since the implementation of the TDS regulations,” Krancer said. “We now have more definitive scientific data, improved technology and increased voluntary wastewater recycling by industry. We used to have 27 grandfathered facilities; but over the last year, many have voluntarily decided to stop taking the wastewater and we are now down to only 15. More than half of those facilities are now up for permit renewal. Now is the time to take action to end this practice.”
            The 2010 revised regulations require publicly owned treatment works and centralized waste treatment facilities to treat new or increased discharges of TDS to more stringent standards. Removing TDS from water also removes bromides. The previous administration, however, chose to allow facilities that had historically accepted drilling wastewater to continue to accept it, as long as they did not increase their input load of wastewater.
            Recent surface water sampling has found elevated levels of bromide in rivers in the Western portion of the state, where the majority of natural gas drilling is taking place. Bromide, itself non-toxic, turns into a combination of potentially unsafe compounds called Total Trihalomethanes once it is combined with chlorine for disinfection at water treatment facilities.
            “While there are several possible sources for bromide other than shale drilling wastewater, we believe that if operators would stop giving wastewater to facilities that continue to accept it under the special provision, bromide concentrations would quickly and significantly decrease,” Krancer said.
            Industry Reaction
            “Research by Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority experts suggests that the natural gas industry is a contributing factor to elevated levels of bromide in the Allegheny and Beaver Rivers," said Kathryn Klaber, Executive Director Marcellus Shale Coalition. "We are committed to leading efforts, and working alongside DEP and other stakeholders, to address these issues quickly and straightforwardly, and support the appropriate action taken by DEP today. As emphasized in our Guiding Principles, our industry will continue to implement state-of-the-art environmental protection across our operations and operate in a transparent and responsible manner.”
            Later in the week, the Marcellus Shale Coalition wrote to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer to "express our commitment to meet the call of the Department of Environmental Protection to halt the delivery of flowback and produced water from shale gas extraction to the facilities that currently accept it under special provisions of last year's Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) regulations.
            "Our members are carefully reviewing their operations and support achieving this milestone by May 19, 2011."
            Environmental Reaction
            "PennEnvironment has expressed concern for years over the practice of discharging toxic, under-treated Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater into our rivers and streams that serve as many Pennsylvanians’ water supply," said Erika Staaf, PennEnvironment.  "In fact, we testified on this subject just last year. While the 2010 ‘Chapter 95’ wastewater standards were a positive step forward  toward protecting our rivers, streams and drinking water sources from Marcellus Shale gas drilling contamination, they still allowed some grandfathered treatment plants to accept this wastewater. 
            "Amidst growing concern by the public and increased scrutiny by the media, we are we are happy to see DEP finally take these critical steps to once and for all stop dangerous, undertreated Marcellus Shale wastewater from entering our waterways and drinking water supplies.
            "In most cases, treatment plants in Pennsylvania were using ‘dilution as the solution’ – simply diluting the wastewater before discharging it back into our rivers and streams – rather than actually treating it. In fact, it was in part due to inadequately-treated Marcellus Shale wastewater discharged into the Monongahela River that state environmental officials were forced to issue a drinking water advisory for roughly 325,000 local residents near Pittsburgh in 2008.”
            PennFuture praised acting DEP Secretary Michael Krancer for ordering Marcellus Shale drillers to stop delivering their frack water to 15 water treatment plants, as new reports showed increased risk of water contamination by this practice.
            This decision came as DEP updated its spreadsheet of violations of environmental regulations and laws by Marcellus shale drillers, making it current through the end of March. That document clearly shows that the drilling industry continues to rack up violations.
            “We are pleased that acting Secretary Krancer recognized the new science showing the risk to the environment and human health by disposal of frack water at water treatment plants,” said Jan Jarrett, PennFuture’s president and CEO. “This is exactly the right result – to respond to new information quickly and definitively, to protect all Pennsylvanians.
            “Mike Krancer and DEP are also praiseworthy for the transparency they are modeling by updating and publishing the list of violations by drillers,” she added.
            “This updated list clearly shows that the drillers are continuing to rack up violations, with Cabot Oil and Gas continuing to the lead the pack,” said Jarrett. “So this is no time to trust the drillers to do the right thing. We must have clear oversight and strict and immediate enforcement of any violations.'
            NewsClips: State Asks Drillers to Curb Wastewater Going To Treatment Plants
                                State: Keep Wastewater Out Of Public Plants
                                State Diverting Shale Wastewater From Treatment Plants
                                State Calls Halt To Shale Wastewater Treatment At 15 Plants
                                PA Acts To Block Drill Water At Treatment Plants
                                PA Urges Curbs On Marcellus Shale Wastewater
                                DEP Moves To Protect River Water From Drilling Waste
                                Sunbury Generation Suspends Processing Drilling Wastewater
                                Drilling Water Ban A Boon?
                                Gas Drillers Asked To Change Method Of Waste Disposal
                                Range Resources Supports DEP Actions On Wastewater Treatment
                                Chief Oil & Gas Supports PA Efforts To Reduce Water Pollution
                                Letter: Corbett Fumbles Marcellus Shale Oversight
                                Letter: Marcellus Shale Directive Causes Much Confusion
                                Editorial: DEP's Waste Request Should Have Been An Order
                                Editorial: DEP Drilling Water Request, With Sugar On Top
                                Editorial: PA Still Lagging In Gas Drilling Oversight


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