Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tough new gas wastewater standards move forward


NOTE: I've got news for you. It's already happenning. The frac related pollutants will only increase going forward. Go have your water tested by a robust lab.


The Environmental Quality Board today approved regulations to protect waterways from the effects of natural gas drilling wastewater.

Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said the new regulations are necessary measure to ensure that drilling wastewater from the booming Marcellus Shale operations containing high concentrations of total dissolved solids, or TDS, do not pollute drinking water supplies, damage industrial equipment or endanger delicate aquatic life.

“Drilling wastewater contains TDS levels that are thousands of times more harmful to aquatic life than discharges from other industries. Without imposing limits on this pollution, treatment costs for this wastewater are passed along to downstream industries and municipal ratepayers,” said Hanger. “All other industries in Pennsylvania are responsible for the waste they generate and the drilling industry should be no exception.”

Next, the EQB-approved TDS rules will move onto the Environmental Resources and Energy committees in the state House and Senate, as well as to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for a 30-day review period.

The regulations were first proposed in August and four public hearings were held around the state.

Under the new regulations, wastewater discharges from new and expanded facilities must meet a concentration threshold of 2,000 milligrams per liter and wastewater discharges from drilling operations cannot exceed 500 mg/l. The lower standard was set for the drilling industry because drilling wastewater is so heavily polluted and because drillers have options other than returning water to rivers and streams such as reusing and recycling it, or injecting it deep into caverns situated below ground water supplies when approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Several states – including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee – prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.

Drinking water treatment facilities and industrial water users are not equipped to process water with high levels of chlorides and sulfates, so the new rules place limits on the amount of total dissolved solids that can be discharged into surface waters.

TDS levels have exceeded the EPA’s secondary drinking water standards of 500 mg/l several times over the past two years in the Monongahela River. The elevated levels led to complaints from drinking water customers about foul-smelling water and damage to laundry and dishes. Industrial users such as USX have complained of equipment damage caused by polluted river water.

High TDS levels also led to a toxic algae bloom that killed all fish and aquatic life in a 30-mile section of Dunkard Creek in Greene County last year.