Pa. wants to cut off gas-drilling wastewater AP

Pa. wants to cut off gas-drilling wastewater – Yahoo! News.

Pa. wants to cut off gas-drilling wastewater

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Citing potentially unsafe drinking water, Pennsylvania called on companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to stop taking wastewater to 15 treatment plants by May 19.

Tuesday’s announcement was a major change in the state’s regulation of gas drilling and came the same day that an industry group said it now believes drilling wastewater is partly at fault for rising levels of bromide being found in Pittsburgh-area rivers.

Gas drilling that uses millions of gallons of chemical-laden water has rapidly grown in the past three years in Pennsylvania.

In other major gas-drilling states, drilling wastewater is kept out of rivers largely by injecting it deep underground into disposal wells. But in Pennsylvania, some drilling wastewater is treated by sewer authorities, largely in western Pennsylvania, and discharged into rivers.

Those wastewater plants, however, are ill-equipped to remove all the pollutants, and Pennsylvania still allows hundreds of millions of gallons of the partially treated wastewater to be discharged into rivers from which communities draw drinking water.

The state Department of Environmental Protection cited elevated levels of bromide in rivers in western Pennsylvania in its announcement.

“Now is the time to take action to end this practice,” acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer said in a statement Tuesday.

Bromide is a salt that later reacts with the chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water systems and creates trihalomethanes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that trihalomethanes can be harmful to people who drink water with elevated levels of the chemical for many years.

Officials at Pittsburgh-area drinking water authorities in Beaver Falls and Fredericktown say their facilities have flunked tests for trihalomethanes in the past couple years.

Complicating the matter is that, in addition to gas drilling, Pennsylvania’s multitude of acid-leaching, abandoned coal mines and other industrial sources are also a major factor in the high salt levels that lead to trihalomethanes in drinking water.

Pennsylvania imposed tougher wastewater treatment standards for drilling wastewater in August, although it still allowed facilities that had been permitted to accept drilling wastewater before August to continue accepting limited amounts under the same treatment standards. Fifteen of those 27 facilities that were grandfathered under the August rules were still accepting the wastewater, the DEP said.

“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 in the statement.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the industry’s Marcellus Shale Coalition, said she would provide specifics in the coming days about actions that coalition members will take in an effort to reduce the amount of bromide that ends up in Pennsylvania rivers. Her organization came to that conclusion after seeing new research from Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Klaber said.

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