Today acting Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Michael Krancer called on all Marcellus Shale drilling operators to stop delivering waste fluids to the wastewater treatment facilities that currently accept it. He gives them one month – until May 19 – to honor this request.
The reason? Right now the wastewater treatment facilities that are accepting drilling wastes are grandfathered in under special provisions of last year’s Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) regulations. But “conditions have changed since implementation of the TDS regulations,” Krancer said. He pointed to more scientific data, improved technology and “increased voluntary wastewater recycling by industry” as reasons for no longer needing to dispose of drilling wastes through the public treatment facilities.
Twice in his remarks to the press Krancer alluded to the previous administration’s choice to allow wastewater treatment plants that had historically accepted drilling wastewater to continue to accept it, as long as they did not increase their input load of wastewater.
But more than half of those facilities are up for permit renewal. “Now is the time to take action to end this practice,” Krancer told the press.
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.
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.
“There are several possible sources for bromide other than shale drilling wastewater,” Krancer said. He believes that if wastewater treatment plants stop accepting drilling waste the bromide concentrations would “quickly and significantly decrease.”
You can read the DEP press release here.