Pa. DEP Secretary: Treatment Plant Meets Strong Standards
Reserve Environmental Services New Facility Will be Zero-Discharge Wastewater Recycling Operation With Capacity to Treat 1 Million Gal Per Day
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Hanger toured the new Reserve Environmental Services wastewater treatment plant in Westmoreland County, saying the facility uses the technology needed to meet stronger water quality standards now being considered to better protect Pennsylvania's waterways from the effects of natural gas drilling.
Hanger said the proposed standards will prevent rivers from being polluted with total dissolved solids (TDS) which can kill aquatic life, threaten drinking water and create higher costs for industrial users. As examples, he pointed to incidents over the past two years involving the Monongahela River, where polluted water created foul-smelling drinking water and damaged industrial equipment; and Dunkard Creek, where a toxic algae bloom killed fish and aquatic life over a 30-mile stretch.
"Natural gas exploration and drilling in the Marcellus Shale is booming here in Pennsylvania, creating a significant challenge in terms of how the industry can treat and dispose of gas drilling and fracturing wastewater. This wastewater contains exceptionally high TDS levels and most drinking water treatment facilities are unable to deal with water containing those high concentrations," Hanger said.
"High levels of total dissolved solids pollution from natural gas drilling and other sources pose a real threat to Pennsylvania's streams and rivers, including aquatic life. DEP has created and proposed new regulations that will ensure that drilling wastewater does not pollute drinking water supplies, damage industrial equipment or endanger delicate aquatic life.
"The technology and resources to recycle, treat and dispose of gas well wastewater are available here at this RES facility, making it an essential tool for the oil and gas industry to minimize its impact on the state's waterways," Hanger added.
Reserve Environmental Services' new facility will be a zero-discharge wastewater recycling operation with the capacity to treat 1 million gal per day. Over the course of a year, that is enough capacity to treat the volume of wastewater created by about 350 Marcellus wells.
DEP's new proposed regulations would establish two standards--one for natural gas drillers and one for new or expanding facilities. Wastewater discharges from new and expanded facilities must meet a concentration threshold of 2,000 mg/L and wastewater discharges from drilling operations cannot exceed 500 mg/L.
Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.
On June 17, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission will meet to consider the proposed regulations, which were approved by the Environmental Quality Board on May 17.