“DEP says Marcellus Shale drilling waste no longer being discharged into streams”

SOURCE: DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News, Friday, June 03, 2011; pennlive.com
Pennsylvania has accomplished a “dramatic sea change” in its protection of water from pollution by drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, according to the state’s top environmental regulator.
Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer told officials in a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that drilling wastewater is no longer being discharged to rivers or streams in Pennsylvania without full treatment.
“That is big news,” said former DEP Secretary John Hanger, who was in the meeting and who wrote about the news on his blog Friday morning.
DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh said the agency has not yet confirmed full compliance with Krancer’s request that drillers voluntarily stop taking the wastewater to such facilities.
But she said it has confirmed that “We’ve gone from millions and millions of gallons being discharged to virtually none.”
Gresh said the agency has reports of a few trucks delivering what may or may not be drilling waste, and said, “We’re tracking down those leads to ensure we have complete compliance all of the time.”
The discharge of drilling waste into streams that supply drinking water for millions of people has come under national scrutiny.
The wastewater is highly polluted with salts, heavy metals, radioactive particles and chemicals.
DEP passed new regulations during Hanger’s tenure that required all new discharges into streams to be treated to drinking water quality, but facilities already permitted to take the waste were not affected.
Those treatment facilities did not remove the majority of contaminants before discharging it into rivers, which diluted it to safe levels officials said.
After The New York Times covered the issue — and after evidence that bromide levels in rivers in Western Pennsylvania were rising — Krancer asked the industry to voluntarily stop the practice entirely.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group representing the top 20 drilling companies operating in Pennsylvania, sent a letter to Krancer indicating its intent to comply promptly.
But DEP had not publicly confirmed actual compliance.
Hanger said he praised Krancer for the accomplishment during the meeting in Washington.
The question remains what sanctions — if any — violators of the voluntary ban might face.
Gresh said if DEP discovers violators, “We will make that known and take whatever next step is necessary.”
The four environmental groups that sit on the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission have proposed making the voluntary ban “a legally enforceable requirement.”

SOURCE: pennlive.com

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