Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Williamsport Proposed Site for Wastewater Treatment Plant

A discharge permit for a gas well wastewater treament plant on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River has been published by the PA DEP. It was published on May 2, 2009, for a 30-day public comment period. The permit is the first for the DEP. Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said:

When approved, this permit will establish specific treatment parameters for gas well drilling wastewater, which includes frac water, brine water and drill water.

The permit would allow between 54,412 and 522,245 pounds per day of total dissolved solids to be discharged to the river. A maximum of 400,000 gallons a day of typical well-drilling wastewater would be treated and discharged from a facility to be constructed on the Water Tower Square property in Williamsport. Ten more permits are in the works for the West Branch of the river, all of which will be published by the end of June 2009.

An article in the Williamsport newspaper, The Sun-Gazette, reports:
"The DEP has adopted a strategy for allowable dissolved solids entering the river. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, an average monthly limit of 500 parts per million of total dissolved solids, and 250 parts per million of chlorides and sulfates will be allowed to be discharged into the river.

In the meantime, the river's assimilative capacity - its ability to take in toxic materials without harming aquatic life or humans who consume the water - will be divided among 10 proposed dischargers, including Terra-Aqua Resource Management LLC."

Discharging treated frac water into the river is a troubling proposition. Will the treament process remove all toxins? Doesn't the phrase "assimilative capacity" mean that it will be acceptable to pollute the river as long as the fish don't die or develop tumors and people don't get sick after swimming in the water?


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