Friday, October 8, 2021

80 Organizations, 1,800+ Concerned Citizens To DEP: Ban Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater; Dept. Of Health Unaware Road Dumping Is Occurring

On October 9, the
Better Path Coalition submitted a letter signed by 80 organizations and businesses and more than 1,800 concerned citizens to Secretary Patrick McDonnell and Deputy Secretary Scott Perry calling on the agency to ban road spreading of conventional oil and gas drilling wastewater. 

The letter comes in the wake of concerning  comments made by DEP representatives at a recent  PA Grade Crude Development Advisory Council meeting indicating that the agency is seeking data to support the reinstatement of the road spreading  of toxic, radioactive drilling waste.

Kurt Klapkowski, Director of the Bureau of Oil and Gas Planning and Program Management told the Council, “We have to be able to defend our decisions with data. And that was the attempt, with working with Penn State, that's what we were attempting to do was to develop that data to be able to have a program that we could go to  the Environmental Hearing Board and the Commonwealth Court and Supreme Court under the constitution and under the statutes that we administer, that would be defensible.”

“This is a blatant example of how poorly our captured environmental regulators are serving the public’s interests. Not only is the agency willing to do the industry’s bidding by shopping for data to support the reinstatement of a road spreading program, it is willing to allow a loophole to exist that  means the practice has never really halted in Pennsylvania,” said Karen Feridun, Co-founder of the Better Path Coalition.

A Bureau of Waste Management beneficial use loophole referred to as a Coproduct Determination allows road spreading of waste if the driller has deemed its waste product to be on par with commercial products. 

This summer, the DEP requested documentation of those self-determinations for the first time since the moratorium on road spreading went into effect.  [Read more here.]

The Better Path Coalition has submitted a Right-to-Know request for copies of those original determination documents.

Dept. Of Health

As the Coalition was preparing to submit the letter, Barbara Brandom of Concerned Health Professionals of PA shared a response she recently received from the PA Department of Health.  

She contacted the agency about her concerns regarding the health impacts associated with road spreading. The DOH responded that it had contacted DEP and was unaware of any road spreading occurring in the Commonwealth. 

The Department of Health letter says--

“DOH does not have any regulatory authority over O&G production activities in the state, however we work in close collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) who does regulate the industry.

“We have shared your concerns regarding wastewater spreading with them.  It is our understanding that this activity is currently not taking place in Pennsylvania and if you know of specific instances where road spreading of oil and gas brine is occurring, you should report it to the relevant DEP regional Office immediately.

“DOH will continue to collaborate with DEP on all issues concerning environmental health, including evaluating any known health risks associated with these exposures.”

The DOH letter was signed by Deputy Secretary of Health Raphael M. Barishansky.

Apparently, the agency does not know about and was not told by DEP about the Coproduct Determination self-certification process that allows road dumping, according to the Better Path Coalition.  [Read more here]

From 1991 to 2017 over 240.4 million gallons of conventional drilling wastewater was dumped on dirt and gravel roads-- over 235.4 million gallons in Pennsylvania alone.  Read more here.

“The DEP's failure to adequately inform the DOH of the potential risks of health impacts reinforces the need to establish a formal process for the DOH to be a part of authorizing any process that involves pathways for negative individual and public health consequences because they have the medical expertise and the DEP does not," said Tammy Murphy, Medical Advocacy Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania.

“Our environmental regulators are only now starting to assess how much waste is being spread on our roads, and has been since 2018, and our public health officials don’t know about any of it. A ban on road spreading would effectively close the loophole and stop the insanity,” said Feridun.

Click Here for a copy of the letter to DEP.

For more information, visit the Better Path Coalition website.  Questions should be directed to Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition, 610-678-7726,  or Tammy Murphy, Physicians for Social Responsibility, 215-749-0960,


-- News5 Cleveland: Ohio Plans To Stop Using Deicer AquaSalina Made From Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater

-- Environmental Health News: Should Oil & Gas Companies Be Exempt From PA’s Hazardous Waste Laws?

Related Articles This Week:

-- 17 Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Operators Under Review By DEP To Determine If They Comply With Program Allowing Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater 

-- DEP Citizens Advisory Council Meets Oct. 19 To Hear Report On Radiation Decontamination Of Oil & Gas Wastewater Treatment Facilities, Reactors, Waste Sites 

-- 65+ Groups Ask Biden Administration To Reclassify Oil & Gas Drilling Waste As 'Hazardous' To Prevent Road Dumping Of Wastewater And Other Practices 

Related Articles:

-- DEP: Potential For Environmental Impacts From Spills Or Leaks Of Radioactive Oil & Gas Waste Materials Is Real; Health Dept. Not Aware Of All Chemicals In Oil & Gas Wastewater Making Risk Assessment Difficult

-- New Penn State Study Shows Road Dumping Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Has Little Dust Suppression Benefit, Contains Pollutants Harmful To Human Health, Agriculture, Aquatic Life

-- Penn State Center For Dirt & Gravel Road Studies: Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater To Control Dust Is Environmentally Unsound Practice
-- DEP Fails To Address Loophole That Continues To Allow Road Dumping Of Conventional Drilling Wastewater; Members Of Public Register Their Opposition To All Road Dumping

-- More Than 60 Environmental Groups, Green Party Of PA Oppose Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater On Rural PA Roads

-- 81 Groups, 3,342 Individuals Express Opposition To Bill Legalizing Road Dumping Of Conventional Drilling Wastewater

-- Dangers Posed By Oil & Gas Drilling Wastes, Abandoned Wells + Siri Lawson’s Story From Warren County

-- Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Well Wastewater Is Happening Now In Crawford, Erie, Warren Counties As House Prepares To Take Up Bill This Week To Make It Legal

-- Earthworks’ New Report, Interactive Map Tracks Disposal Of 380 Million Barrels Of PA Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater, Including Road Dumping

-- Op-Ed: Why Is the General Assembly About To Hurt Us By Authorizing Road Dumping Of Oil & Gas Wastewater?

-- Op-Ed: Will Our Dirt Roads Again Be Used As Dumping Sites For Oil & Gas Well Wastewater

-- House Republicans Pass Bill Legalizing Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Well Wastewater, Rolling Back Environmental Protection Standards

-- Senate Democrats, AG Shapiro Announce Legislation To Address Issues Raised In Grand Jury Report On Natural Gas Fracking

[Posted: October 9, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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