Friday, August 19, 2022

Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Want To Rewrite Penn State Study Showing Their Drilling Wastewater Dumped On Roads Is Bad For Human Health, Environment

The goal of their rewrite is to incorporate all their criticisms of the report, however insubstantial, that would undermine its conclusions.

Nine members of the Advisory Council voted for the motion. The Council chair did not announce the number of votes against the motion or any who abstained. The Council has 17 members.

Click Here for a copy of the resolution as presented to the Council.

Dr. William Burgos, lead author of a new Penn State University study of road dumping conventional oil and gas wastewater released in May, answered questions about the study at the meeting for more than two hours.

The study found the wastewater running off the roadways after spreading contains concentrations of barium, strontium, lithium, iron, manganese that exceed human-health based criteria and levels of radioactive radium that exceed industrial discharge standards.  Read more here.

“The story for all of these brines is whatever you put on the road, it's washing off into the adjoining ditch,” said Dr. Burgos.  “And then in the case of oil and gas produced waters, especially that one sort of regional average one with the highest radium activity had the highest concentrations of radium in the runoff, both in the first flush and mobilized with solids.”

“With respect to efficacy, as we showed through the dust generation experiments, they're little to no more effective than simply rainwater or going out and watering your roads, if you want to do that,” Dr. Burgos added.  Read more here.

Representatives of the conventional drilling industry primarily took issue with the samples of drilling wastewater tested during the study saying it was not representative of the waste they produce.

“The study screwed us, because it used water that doesn’t represent our industry,” said one member.

They said the amount of one pollutant-- Total Dissolved Solids--  was too low-- 84,000 mg/L versus what they say is a more representative sample would have had at least 115,000 mg/l.

The EPA/DEP Total Dissolved Solid standard is 500 mg/L

A second pollutant-- radioactive radium-- was too high, the industry representatives said.  The sample used by Penn State in their study contained 2,500 pCi/L when the industry said between 1,000 and 1,600 pCi/L was more representative.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission standard for industrial wastewater is 60 pCi/L.  The combined radium EPA/DEP standard in drinking water is 5 pCi/L.

The Penn State study shows the conventional drilling wastewater tested exceeds, and in many instances far exceeds, the environmental or health standards for 25 of the 31 parameters tested for in the study

Dr. Burgos said the drilling wastewater they tested in the study was intended to be representative of wastewater produced in Northwest Pennsylvania where much of the conventional oil and gas drilling happens.

“We agree there is a geochemical mismatch between radium and TDS [Total Dissolved Solids],” said Dr. Burgos.  “But, what I would argue, what I’m gonna say is the salts are all washing off [the road], the radium is in the salts.  

“If you had 1,600 pCi/L instead of 2,500 pCi/L you are still getting over that 60 pCi/L [Nuclear Regulatory Commission standard] that washes off the road.

“I would be concerned with any of these produced waters with a thousand or more pCi/L for sure.  My guess is they are going to generate these kind of numbers,” Dr. Burgos added.

Dr. Burgos also repeated a recommendation in the study saying DEP should look at regulating commercial products using calcium chlorides-- salts-- to treat roads to prevent ice formation because their concentrations of pollutants is often higher than even the conventional drilling wastewater.

Kurt Klapkowski, Acting DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, told the group--

“The report is what it is, based on submissions to the department and released on, I think it was, May 26th. This is a document that reflects a moment in time.  We’re three months after that day. 

“We can certainly say whatever we want to say about the report when we're talking about today and we're having a discussion about it but the report is what it is. This was what was given to the department and what was accepted on May 26th, 2022.”

Click Here for more details on the Penn State study.

(Photo: left to right: Dr. William Burgos, professor of environmental engineering; Andrew Kearney, environmental engineering research assistant; and James Farnan and Andrew Eck, both environmental engineering graduate students.)

Related Articles - Conventional Wastewater:

-- New Penn State Study Finds Runoff From Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Dumped On Unpaved Roads Contains Pollutants That Exceed Human-Health, Environmental Standards  [5.27.22]

-- Penn State Study: Potential Pollution Caused By Road Dumping Conventional Oil & Gas Wastewater Makes It Unsuitable For A Dust Suppressant, Washes Right Off The Road Into The Ditch  [7.26.22]

-- The Science Says: Spreading Conventional Drilling Wastewater On Dirt & Gravel Roads Can Harm Aquatic Life, Poses Health Risks To Humans - And It Damages The Roads  [10.25.21]

-- Conventional Oil & Natural Gas Drilling: An Industrial Machine Moving Across The PA Countryside Leaving Behind Big Liabilities & Spreading Pollution Everywhere It Goes  [8.3.22]

-- PA Grade Crude [Oil] Development Advisory Council Meets Aug. 18 On Road Dumping Drilling Wastewater; Methane Regs, Conventional Regs, Well Plugging, More  [8.12.22]

-- DEP Advises 18 Municipalities Where Road Dumping Of Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Wastewater Is Occurring The Practice Is Illegal And Considered Waste Disposal  [5.31.22]

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP: Conventional Oil & Gas Driller Compliance Review Will Go Back At Least 5 Years; Whether It Will Be Public Document Not Decided  [PaEN]

-- Yale School Of Public Health Study Found PA Children 2 To 3 Times More Likely To Be Diagnosed With Leukemia If They Live Near Unconventional Shale Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- Grant Township Charter Banning Drilling Wastewater Injection Wells Struck Down By State Court; Decision Appealed To PA Supreme Court  [PaEN]

-- PA PUC: Cost Of Natural Gas Provided By Major Utilities In PA Increased As Much As 154% Over Last Year  [PaEN]

-- Independent Fiscal Office Reports Decline In PA Natural Gas Production For 2nd Quarter In A Row For First Time; But An Increase In New Wells Drilled  [PaEN]

-- New Poll: Strong Majority Of PA Voters Support Climate Action To Cut Carbon and Methane Pollution  [PaEN]

[Posted: August 19, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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