PA DEP calls on natural gas drillers to stop giving wastewater to treatment facilities

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HARRISBURG, PA, Apr. 19, 2011 -- At the direction of Governor Tom Corbett, acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer today 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.

For more information about DEP, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.

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