The problem: high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) pollution from natural gas drilling and other sources are threatening Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, "including aquatic life," warned DEP Secretary John Hanger.
"Treating and disposing of gas drilling brine and fracturing wastewater is a significant challenge for the natural gas industry because of its exceptionally high TDS concentrations,” Hangar said. Pointing to the rapid growth of Marcellus drilling he added, "Our rules must be strengthened now to prevent our waterways from being seriously harmed in the future."
Hanger then listed some recent cases where TDS impaired streams and affected major sources of drinking water. In 2008 and 2009 the TDS levels exceeded drinking water standards along the Monongahela River, a major source of drinking water. And again in early September 2009, excessive TDS levels led to an environmental disaster that wiped out 26 miles of Dunkard Creek in Greene County, as well as many miles of the creek in West Virginia. High TDS concentrations, combined with temperature, nutrients and other environmental factors created the ideal conditions for a golden algae bloom - and inhospitable conditions for other aquatic life. The algae released toxins to the water column that "literally wiped out aquatic life, including at least 16 species of freshwater mussels and 18 species of fish," notes the press release.
"Dunkard Creek is an example of what can happen if TDS is not controlled," said Hanger, calling the loss of this important public resource an environmental and economic tragedy. You may read the entire press release here.