Frack Flowback in the Schuylkill River Basin?

Bryn Mawr-based AquaAmerica, Inc., one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing water utilities, is vastly expanding its waste management services in the Schuylkill River Basin, source of drinking water for 1.5 million residents of Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties. Since 2005, Aqua Wastewater Management, Inc., a solely owned Pennsylvania subsidiary, has been systematically building their portfolio of non-regulated waste-hauling ventures including Leary and Higgins waste hauling business in Chester County and Concord Wastewater Services, Inc. in Delaware County.

In July, 2006, Aqua Wastewater Management, Inc, acquired Perna Wastewater Management in Souderton, the largest residential septage hauling operator in the Schuylkill basin for $5.1 million. The purchase represents Aqua’s strategy to expand its waste hauling and treatment business in the region, which the company hopes will come to represent approximately two percent of annual sales.

“We’ll pursue continued growth from commercial and industrial entities needing bulk liquid transportation and disposal,” said Charles J. Perna, who will continue as the new subsidiary’s president. The addition of Perna’s customer base continues to fill in the company’s waste hauling business footprint in southeastern Pennsylvania, making Aqua a significant competitor in this area of the state. SOURCE: WaterOnline.com

In recent years, Aqua has also spend $300 million shoring up its Schuylkill River Basin Water Treatment facilities in Pickering and Crum Creek, and its nearby Neshaminy facility in Bucks County, now infamous for having accepted 44,000 gallons of untreated frack wastwater in 2009-2010.

Aqua’s major infrastructure investments have included replacing antiquated mains and overhauling aging treatment plants, and the corporation’s initiatives have brought hundreds of jobs to Montgomery County alone. And, by the way, they’re still hiring! They’re also actively seeking new utilities to add to their portfolio, so if you have happen to have a sewage treatment plant that you’re looking to sell, contact Tom Rafferty, tfraffefrty@aquaamerica.com.

Perhaps I am completely misinterpreting Aqua’s business plan, and this wastewater treatment thing is merely a tempest in a teapot. Perhaps their only interest is providing the purest, most natural water to customers.

“God continues to give us the water for free, but he’s left the cost of laying the pipe and building the treatment facilities to us,” said Nicholas DeBenedictis, President, CEO and Chairman of AquaAmerica, speaking before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) at their annual conference in Atlanta. Aqua America is investing $300 million in infrastructure this year alone, and it plans to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years.

Investment on this large a scale, however, can only mean that they are expecting a lot of new customers. And who in Pennsylvania has got a lot of industrial waste water to dispose of, and fast? Natural Gas Drillers. So, if Aqua Wastewater Management, Inc. is planning to accept and treat large volumes of recycled frack flowback, then the fast flowing, dilutive waters of the Schuylkill River Basin are like blue gold. All they need to do is charge by the gallon, though it’s unlikely they’d announce that in a press release.

“In 2005, Aqua Wastewater Management Inc. was formed when Aqua America acquired Concord Wastewater Services and Golden Mechanical, Inc. These new, unregulated businesses gave Aqua the ability to use its own sludge hauling and collection system maintenance services for its wastewater treatment facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania….`This new acquisition is not only consistent with Aqua’s strategy to grow in the wastewater business, but it also serves as a platform on which to further expand the wastewater hauling business within our Pennsylvania base,’ Aqua said.” SOURCE: thestreet.com

Certainly, Aqua Wastewater Management, Inc. will be prepared to say that it is deploying “Best Demonstrable Technology,” as stipulated by the Special Protection Waters laws, which covers 197 miles of the Delaware River. The Schuylkill River is largest tributary to the Delaware River, but it is not part of the Special Protection Waters. At any rate, Aqua may have found one way to address the threat of large-scale water pollution posed by the ramping up of under-regulated natural gas drilling in our state. They may even feel like heros, but do they really think the 1.5 million water consumers in Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties want to be unwitting guinea pigs in their artificial water boomlet? The billion dollar question remains: Will Aqua be accepting flowback, recycled or otherwise, from industrial gas drillers in the Schuylkill River Basin?

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One Response to “Frack Flowback in the Schuylkill River Basin?”

  1. Brii Says:

    I feel bad for Ms. Johnson, but I’m trhllied to see this article. I was raised on a farm and later married a dairy farmer. In 1983 I became active in the cause of stopping factory farms. I, to this day, will say what I think is right and wrong about the situation. People need to listen, think about the effects on their family members, and respond to protect them. Many still do NOT believe the dangers created and the results. People die because of the way factory farms are built, as well as managed. Most consumers never see what goes on in and around these ‘farms’. The managers, staff members, surrounding neighbors, animals, plants, precious honey bees, etc., are made ill from what they breath every day. I’ve shouted this many times to deaf ears. The Government sets rules that are broken. The owner’s hands get slapped and maybe a small fine gets paid. He then returns home to build again, cage more animals, grow more crops, create more hazards, and it goes on and on. We are allowing our Mother Earth to be destroyed if we don’t get out there and fight for our future by demanding our Senators, Congress, and Reps. to start voting for US instead those with Big, Dirty, Infected Money. I have grand children. I want them to grow into healthy adults so they, too, can reproduce and have healthy children. I want them to have CLEAN air and HEALTHY food. This can only happen if people will stand up, care enough about their families and their fellow man, and demand a stop to this nonsense. We deserve BETTER!

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