Tuesday, November 10, 2009

DEP Proposes New Wastewater Standards For Drilling Operations, Wastewater Plants

The Environmental Quality Board published proposed regulations on November 7 for public comment outlining changes in Total Dissolved Solids discharge standards prompted by concerns over natural gas drilling wastewater. (formal notice)
The EQB is holding four public hearings on the new proposed limits in December--
-- December 14 - 5:00 p.m., Cranberry Township Municipal Building, Cranberry Twp.;
-- December 15 - 5:00 p.m., DEP Cambria District Office, Ebensburg;
-- December 16 - 5:00 p.m., DEP Northcentral Regional Office, Williamsport; and
-- December 17 - 5:00 p.m., Lehigh County Government Center, Allentown.
The Department of Environmental Protection made the announcement of the new limits at the Marcellus Shale Wastewater Technology Partnership and said they are designed tol protect aquatic life and drinking water supplies.
“High total dissolved solids in industrial wastewater have been a problem in the Monongahela River recently and are an impending problem on a statewide level,” DEP Secretary John Hanger said. “We are establishing base standards for this water so dischargers move towards actually treating TDS in industrial wastewater, rather than simply depending on dilution to protect water quality.
“DEP and the natural gas drilling industry created the wastewater technology partnership in 2008 to investigate and deploy new technologies for treating wastewater from natural gas drilling and production within two years. It is vital that new treatment methods are instituted so that public municipal drinking water supplies and other industrial uses are not disadvantaged by increased total dissolved solids and chlorides in our surface waters and that developing our natural gas reserves is not unduly constrained.”
Pennsylvania’s streams must assimilate total dissolved solids from a variety of wastewater sources besides oil and gas well drilling. The primary sources of these pollutants are stormwater runoff and pollutant discharges from industrial activities.
The state’s rivers and streams are also burdened by uncontrolled discharges from abandoned coal mines. Wastewater from certain industrial operations is high in chlorides (salt) and sulfates which affect the taste and odor of drinking water and, in high concentrations, can damage or destroy aquatic life.
Drinking water treatment facilities are not normally equipped to treat these contaminants and rely on normally low levels of chlorides and sulfates in surface waters used for drinking water supplies.
The deadline for comments on the proposed TSD limit change is February 5.
For more information, click here for the formal notice and visit the TDS Strategy webpage.
DEP Detects TDS Over Standards In Monongahela River
DEP Works To Address Increasing TDS Levels In Monongahela
Water Quality monitoring Network Formed - River Alert And Information Network
DEP To Set New Wastewater Standards For Drilling Operations Effective Jan. 2011

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