PA DEP to Regulate Fracking Wastewater Discharge

Washington County PA rig

DEP guidelines to challenge natural gas extractors

Friday, October 29, 2010

Natural gas exploration and production companies will have a difficult time meeting new standards for limiting pollutants in wastewater dumped in the state’s waterways, experts said yesterday.

“That’s a real daunting challenge,” John W. Ubinger Jr., senior vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said at an event focusing on the risks and opportunities of developing the state’s Marcellus shale natural gas reserves.

About 70 companies are involved in the exploration and production of natural gas in the state’s Marcellus shale reserves. Almost 1,100 wells have been drilled since January, and 2,350 permits have been issued in the first nine months of this year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

In January, the DEP is set to implement standards that will not permit the discharging of any wastewater that contains more than 500 milligrams per liter of total dissolved solids — such as salts and other minerals — into the state’s watershed. Water used by natural gas drillers to fracture Marcellus shale formations to release the gas has much higher levels of the dissolved salts as well as other minerals and chemicals used in the process.

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