Thursday, February 6, 2020

Joint Conservation Committee: Belle Vernon Municipal Authority Taking A Stand Against Pollution From Drilling Waste

The February newsletter from the Joint House-Senate Conservation Committee includes an article brought to the newsletter by Rep. Bud Cook (R-Fayette) about how the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority in Fayette County took steps to protect the Monongahela River from water pollution caused by drilling waste.  Here is the text of the article--
Belle Vernon Municipal Authority Taking A Stand Against Pollution
The following narrative is a firsthand account of the Superintendent of the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority. 
As the Representative of the 49th District and member of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee, I felt it important to acknowledge the efforts of the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority and the Board of Directors for their proactive approach to protecting the Monongahela River, communities and health of the constituents living in the Mon Valley.
Written by Guy C. Kruppa - Superintendent of the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority--
The Belle Vernon Municipal Authority has always prided itself on providing quality effluent that returns to the source water from their Sewage Treatment Plant. 
The source water I am referring to is the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to many communities downstream from Belle Vernon.
When we noticed a change in the bug population in the treatment tanks, we quickly examined the influent content. 
We explored all the waste streams the treatment plant receives and quickly narrowed the sources down. Upon further investigation, the selection was cut down to one source: the Municipal Landfill.
At this point, our battle began. The Belle Vernon Municipal Authority had a choice – to fight for what was right for the community and humanity or to turn a blind eye and capitalize on profit for what is widely accepted – disposing of hazardous waste.
Once the source was identified, it was time to unearth the problem. After many months, thousands of Authority dollars and through laboratory results and ex- pert opinions, the source was pinpointed: the gas fracking industry.
One might say, “What would a garbage dump have to do with the fracking industry?” A very good question to which we wondered ourselves. 
By digging into our archived lab results along with our current results, we were able to trend data that linked the Municipal Landfill to the fracking industry.
Upon several meetings with the Department of Environmental Protection, we discovered that the fracking industry is permitted to dump drill cuttings, frack- ing cake and other fracking wastes into Municipal Landfills.
This waste is permitted to be disposed of, up to a certain tonnage per year. Now landfills are designed to accept the nastiest smelling garbage on Earth, right? 
You would be correct to assume this thought. However, is it correct to accept waste that contains elevated radiation levels, with elements such as Barium, Radium, and Tritium? 
The DEP obviously thought this. The old adage applies here which is, “If you don’t test for it, you won’t find it.”
We have come to realize that drilling for gas is accompanied by devastating by- products that are harmful to human health as well as sewage treatment plant bugs.
It may seem funny to say, but sewage bugs are living organisms that breathe air and eat, but will not survive under conditions that are adverse. 
Now let me bring this full circle in connecting the landfill with the sewage plant at Belle Vernon.
The landfill has a grandiose system of under drains that collects water that leaches through the layers of garbage. This water is called “Leachate.” 
The leachate exits the landfill through piping and enters the sanitary sewage system where it is eventually dumped into the sewage plant for processing. When rain water washes over the garbage and fracking waste, bad things wash out. 
The “bad things” I am referring to are constituents such as: Chlorides, Calcium, Ammonia-Nitrogen, Magnesium, TDS, Iron, Phenols, Nickel, Boron, Lead, Sulfide, Conductivity and Radium 226+228 to name a few.
All of these elements are indicators of the fracking industry and all are poisonous at certain levels.
I quickly realized that we were the “land-fill’s permit to pollute.” This statement and condition did not sit well with the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority board members.
A decision was made at a public meeting to terminate the agreement with the landfill and stop service. Through certified letters and eventually a court order, Belle Vernon no longer treated or profited from the landfill and its hazardous waste.
Today, the Municipal Authority treats only waste that it was intended to treat – domestic sewage. 
The population of bugs in the plant has recovered and is operating optimally.
 It was through countless hours, emails, meetings and spending large amounts of money that we were able to do what was right and just.
Accepting money in exchange to pollute the environment, harm wildlife and potentially cause human health issues was fundamentally wrong. 
Belle Vernon Municipal Authority took the initiative to rectify the problem and in many ways, stood alone.
Doing the right thing is almost unheard of these days when profit is to be gained. Belle Vernon looked past today and looked toward the future.
By taking a stand, doing the right thing, and standing up to big business, Belle Vernon stands alone in a greedy world where money does the talking.”
Other Newsletter Articles
Other articles in the newsletter include--
-- LED Lights In Greenhouses
-- Costs Of Big Coal Bankruptcies
-- Reducing Sprawl And Water Quality
-- Efficient Irrigation And Groundwater Supplies
-- 50th Anniversary of Earth Day
-- First of several hearings held on the state of Pennsylvania’s electric cogeneration industry.
Rep. Parke Wentling (R-Mercer) serves as Chair of the Joint Conservation Committee.
For more information, visit the Joint Conservation Committee website, call 717-787-7570, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on TwitterClick Here to sign up for regular updates from the Committee.
Related Article:
[Posted: February 6, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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