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