PA DEP, Marcellus Shale Coalition Admit Drilling Wastewater Likely Contaminating Drinking Water

There are 15 (of an original 27) municipal sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania that still accept Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater. That is, until May 19 of this year.

The plants are not fully licensed for treating drilling wastewater but were given an exception to new rules that went into effect, allowing them to continue the practice. That will likely end very soon.

Because of high levels of dissolved solids and bromide in rivers and streams used for public drinking water sources, the state Department of Environmental Protection has asked all Marcellus Shale operations to voluntarily stop disposal of drilling wastewater at 15 municipal sewage treatment plants.

Those facilities are, the Clairton City Municipal Authority and McKeesport City Municipal Authority, both in Allegheny County; Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, Cambria County; Ridgway Borough, Elk County; Franklin Township Sewage Authority, Greene County; Tunnelton Liquids Co. and Hart Resource Technologies Inc., both in Indiana County; Brockway Area Sewage Authority, Punxsutawney Borough Municipal Authority and Reynoldsville Borough Authority, all in Jefferson County; New Castle City Sanitation Authority, Lawrence County; Sunbury Generation, Snyder County; Franklin Brine Treatment Corp., Venango County; Waste Treatment Corp., Warren County; and the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority, Westmoreland County.(1)

It is a “request” and not an “order” from the DEP, but it’s almost certain that with growing pressure from the media, and now from the Marcellus Shale Coalition itself, none of the sewage treatment plants will accept the wastewater after the 19th.

A Marcellus Shale industry organization says it now believes the natural gas exploration industry is partly responsible for rising levels of contaminants being found in Pittsburgh-area drinking water.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said Tuesday she’ll provide specifics in coming days about actions that coalition members will take on the matter.

She says her organization came to this conclusion after seeing research from Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.(2)

The DEP says they will revisit the matter 30 days after the 19th to see how many have complied, with the not-so-subtle threat that the request may become and order.

(1) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Apr 19, 2011) – Pa.: Marcellus wastewater shouldn’t go to treatment plants

(2) Observer-Reporter/AP (Apr 19, 2011) – Marcellus Shale Coalition now believes drilling industry adding to contaminated water

  • Otegogas

    No surprise here – you can’t dump industrial waste water into a municipal waste treatment plant and expect potable water to come out the other side. Dumb is as dumb does.

  • Paul Cometx NYC

    Looks like the NY Times wasn’t biased after all.

  • We shall see Paul, we shall see. Remember these are municipal plants. There are plants specifically set up to deal with drilling wastewater–all aspects of it–that are reportedly doing a fine job of treating and releasing it. So let’s not paint the entire wastewater industry with one brush, and let’s not jump to the conclusion that PA is now aglow in radioactivity. I still maintain the NYT has a heavy bias, but I’m not above eating crow and admitting I’m wrong either. But I’m not quite ready to do it just yet. 😉

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  • Anonymous

    I believe you are the one who is biased, Jim. Just because major amounts of wastewater are treated, how about all the on site spills that occur with ground contamination and fracking water being spilled into streams? How about the fines for bad cement encasings? Those that have well water and live near drilling sites are scared to death of this industry. Why not do away with the carcinogenic chemicals? That would be a good start. And this article proves that nothing is done until “they’re caught” in the act. And I wonder how many trucks continue to dump without being caught?

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  • M Working

    Gee Jim… I worked in those fields. Between 1-5% of ALL loads of wastewater are actually highly flammable drip gas that travels over the roads. Not to mention that plants like the one in New Castle, PA that burned to the ground and claimed it was a “welding accident” that set fiberglass insulation on fire when in fact, the welder was welding over an open tank that 10K gallons of drip gas was placed in… I WAS THERE. Gravity feed tanks that simply let the sediment settle across 6 large tanks into a clear well and then released into the sewage system. The “pro-drilling” movement is the new gold rush. You can’t go find it in NC… yields are expected to be 10 to 100 times Texas shale operations… you want it here? You should be taxed here! 40% of the toxins are left in the ground unrecoverable and the industry says its too low to affect the water table. So why did the gov’t make deep mine backfilling with hazardous waste illegal? ITS below the water table too. Its corporate welfare, wages and conditions barely above poverty for a family of 4… unless you work 70 hours a week… Sealed lease yields for 5-7 years so leaseholders can’t see if they are getting a fair share? The industry is manipulating the media to distort the truth… Range Resources? PAY TAXES INSTEAD OF ADVERTISING AT PIRATE GAMES! Then maybe the budget shortfall at the state level won’t be so large! NOT MY drilling company. The $$$ made by the corporations, compared to the jobs created is minimally boosting the economy. We can play the aggregate effect game to make the corporate contributions look positive… but thats YOUR spin! I’m not against drilling mind you… just safe, responsible and without corporate welfare that WHEN taxed… gets out of it by asking to pass the tax directly to the consumer. Where are all of the distillization and crystallization units from GE? Too expensive and the state doesn’t want the byproduct. Keep on lobbying for BIG BUSINESS Jim… bet it pays better than a well tender, a driver or an employee at one of the plants with much better benefits!

  • M Working

    Marcellus is a scam. 5-7 year holds on yields for leaseholders so they don’t know if they are getting a fair shake on their lease… wastewater contamination… tax free operation… excuse after excuse after lie after lie. They made backfilling deep shaft mines with hazardous waste illegal and THOSE holes are deeper than the 1 mile deep holes that tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals are pumped into the shale for fracking. And 40% of the chemicals are unrecoverable from the process and lay waste in the ground. The GOLD is HERE in PA and NY. Not TN, NC, SC, FL or any of the other 50 states with some exceptions… so if you want it here? Don’t use job creation that helps the economy to get out of taxes and engage in corporate welfare. Its called RISK, and it is a part of Economics 101 and Business 101. But the BIG companies put out TV ads and sponsor Pirate games… just to hedge their bets… not minimize risk… but make the PUBLIC in general pay for it. Who is maintaining the Interstate and state highways that 5K and 6K tankers travel overweight on??? Agreements with municipalities for road surfacing doesn’t cover that. What about the “ethical responsibility to the public” of corporations that includes MORE than a few charitable contributions and job creation to make it look legit? Ethical responsibility is STOPPING CORPORATE WELFARE! What about lip service being paid to “we don’t condone that”, but in reality it saves money so it is done. 1-3-5% of ALL water??? loads from the fields are flammable drip gas that is rejected at the treatment facilities, not placarded and a hazard on the roads. Fires at tank farms, drivers blowing up and dying, the plant in Youngstown OH that burned to the ground from drip gas “wastewater” in Dec 2008 where 1 worker was critically injured, the plant in New Castle PA that burned the Sept before? And covered it up as a welding accident? But the $$$ is sooooooo blinding that people are ust looking the other way instead of being RESPONSIBLE. I am not saying STOP DRILLING by any means. I am saying do it safely, responsibly and pay your fair share without subsidizing the cost of a tax directly to the consumer which business seems to love to do… so they collect THEIR “fair share” from the public. Its called the COST OF DOING BUSINESS. ITS FIXED. Profit margins DO NOT have to be so high. Or else there should be a lobby for a windfall profits tax.

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