COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
DEP, DRILLING INDUSTRY
CREATE PARTNERSHIP TO EXPLORE NEW WASTEWATER TREATMENT TECHNOLOGIES
Department Improves, Strengthens Permitting Process
01/13/2009 HARRISBURG – The Department of Environmental Protection
and the natural gas drilling industry have launched a partnership to
explore innovative methods to treat wastewater generated from oil
and gas well drilling operations in the commonwealth.
Working with the partnership,
the department will develop a technology-based standard for total
dissolved solids in oil and gas wastewater, to protect rivers and
streams. The partnership met for the first time today in Harrisburg.
“The oil and natural gas extraction process generates brine and
wastewater that can contain high concentrations of salt and total
dissolved solids that are diluted and discharged into surface waters
after treatment to remove pollutants,” said Environmental Protection
acting Secretary John Hanger.
“The department is committed to
working along side the drilling industry to develop new treatment
technologies to treat this wastewater that will allow our natural
gas industry and our economy to thrive while protecting the health
of our rivers and streams.”
Pennsylvania’s streams must assimilate total dissolved solids, or
TDS, from a variety of wastewater sources besides oil and gas well
The primary sources of these
pollutants are stormwater runoff and pollutant discharges from
industrial and sewage treatment plants.
Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams are also burdened by uncontrolled
discharges from abandoned coal mines. Some streams already burdened
with large TDS loads could reach their limits from the additional
demand created by new well drilling activity.
The combination of fluctuating energy prices and Pennsylvania’s
proximity to the major population centers of the northeast has
created an oil and gas drilling boom in the commonwealth.
DEP has issued a new record
7,792 drilling permits in 2008 with more than 4,100 wells drilled in
regions throughout the state.
The partnership was formed as a result of an increasing demand for
the treatment and disposal of brine and other wastewater generated
from traditional and Marcellus Shale drilling operations.
Its goal is to limit surface
water discharges from wastewater treatment plants by encouraging the
reuse of frac water, locating geologic formations capable of safe
deep underground wastewater disposal, and evaluating new and
emerging technologies for treating the remaining wastewater.
By reusing the frac water, the
industry’s demand for fresh water withdrawals will decrease. “The
rivers and streams of Pennsylvania have a very limited ability to
absorb some of the additional wastewater created from the increased
development of the Marcellus Shale formation.
Additional wastewater treatment
facilities and methods will be necessary to accommodate the
increased volumes of wastewater from these drilling activities,”
The drilling industry and DEP have agreed to develop a long-term
strategy for permitting treatment facilities by identifying
constituents of concern based on sample well data.
This standard will be developed
with input from the technology partnership and the public through
the department’s public participation process.
The partnership is the latest process established by the department
to improve the regulatory process and reduce permit processing
The department is also
developing a permit-by-rule for earthmoving and construction which
will reduce the permit review time from 150 days to 30 days by
requiring best management practices and the extra environmental
protection measure of vegetated buffers.
To qualify for permit by rule,
• Provide public notice and specific notice to the municipality;
• Satisfy local stormwater ordinances and get a letter confirming
• Have a certified professional engineer or professional geologist
develop and seal the Erosion Control Plan and Post Construction
Stormwater Control Plans;
• Include vegetated buffers for added stream protection; and
• Utilize BMPs described and included in the BMP manual.
In addition, revisions to the department’s permit review process
encourage the withdrawal of water from streams during high-flow
conditions, providing added protection to the water resources.
In response to the increased
demand for staff to review permits and inspect sites, DEP has begun
to hire additional staff which will be supported by permit
application fee increases which were approved by the Environmental
Quality Board in December.
For more information,
website, keyword: Oil and Gas.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA