State and federal approvals are in place to begin work on a $35 million wastewater treatment plant in Somerset Township. The 150-acre facility will take water that comes out of Marcellus Shale gas wells, treat it, and then ship it back to drilling companies to be used in the hydrological fracturing of another well.
The plant’s Chief Operating officer, Ken Burris, will be moving up from Tennessee in the coming weeks to oversee the plant that he says will open in a year or less. When it is fully operational the facility is expected to employ 65 workers. Burris says they will be looking for people with good mechanical skills to run the state-of-the-art equipment. Administrative and security personnel will also be needed.
Burris says there are other plants in the state that are doing this kind of work but their capacity will be quickly exceeded once drilling in the shale formation begins in earnest. In fact, Burris says this is just the first of several facilities the company hopes to operate. Burris says they are trying to get out in front of the demand for gas well water treatment. Burris says the material pulled from the water will include non-toxic metals and other solids that will be disposed of and salt that can be sold for non-human consumption. That would allow it to be used on roads or other industrial processes.
As the development of the site begins Burris says they are already looking at the long-term impact the facility will have on the transportation infrastructure in the area. He says that is a key part of making the treatment facility work but he says he cannot disclose any details as of yet. He notes that if the level of drilling in the Marcellus Shale hits the levels anticipated there will not be enough water trucks in the state to haul the water to and from treatment facilities. The parcel of land to be used is near routes 281, 31 and 219.