Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HARRISBURG -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today praised two votes by members of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission that he said will protect Pennsylvania’s streams and drinking water supplies against total dissolved solids pollution from Marcellus Shade drilling wells and other sources from stormwater runoff.
The new total dissolved solids, or TDS, rules the commission approved today will ensure that rivers and streams in Pennsylvania do not exceed the safe drinking water standard of 500 milligrams per liter, the Governor said. The rules also will protect businesses by grandfathering all existing discharges and allowing businesses to use a stream’s ability to absorb those discharges while not exceeding drinking water standards.
“Today’s IRRC vote is a great step forward in our efforts to protect one of the state’s greatest natural and economic assets—our waterways,” said Governor Rendell. “Millions of Pennsylvanians rely on the state’s rivers and streams for drinking water; countless numbers of our residents and visitors from out-of-state come here to fish these waters or use them for recreation; and some of our largest industrial employers wouldn’t be able to operate here if not for the clean, reliable supply of water they offer. So, we cannot allow new, heavily polluted sources of wastewater to contaminate them.
“That’s why these regulations are so important,” added the Governor, who noted the approved regulations now await review from the environmental resources and energy committees in the state house and senate.
“As the natural gas industry expands to access the Marcellus Shale reserves in Pennsylvania, the volume of wastewater returned to our streams could increase exponentially, and the only way to protect our water resources is to implement new wastewater treatment standards for the drilling industry,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. “The National Association of Water Companies and many other individuals and groups across the state strongly support the adoption of this rule and I commend the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for taking this action. All other industries are responsible for the waste they generate and the drilling industry should be no exception.”
Hanger noted that drilling wastewater contains very high levels of total dissolved solids – chlorides and sulfides – that must be removed before discharging into surface waters. High TDS levels have damaged industrial equipment, caused drinking water companies to issue drinking water advisories and even led to a massive fish kill on Dunkard Creek. Some of Pennsylvania’s rivers are near their capacity to absorb and dilute additional levels of TDS.
The proposed regulations will require drillers to treat drilling wastewater to 500 mg/l or to drinking water quality at the discharge pipe if they choose to return drilling wastewater to rivers and streams. Drillers have several options to dispose of wastewater in Pennsylvania, including: reuse or recycling; disposal in deep caverns when permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; or full treatment to the 500 mg/l for TDS standard.
The last option will only work if polluted water is properly treated to reduce high TDS levels. Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.
The panel also approved new regulations to enhance existing rules governing erosion, sediment control and stormwater to protect streams from the effects of new development, reduce localized flooding during heavy storms, and cut sediment and nutrient pollution. The new rules, which also include an updated permit fee structure, bring Pennsylvania into compliance with federal requirements for:
• Erosion and sedimentation controls and post-construction stormwater runoff;
• Creating mandatory requirements for establishing and protecting existing streamside and riverside buffers in high quality and exceptional value watersheds; and
• Enhancing agricultural stormwater management provisions beyond plowing and tilling to include animal-heavy use areas.
For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.