Citing potentially unsafe drinking water, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is calling on natural gas drillers to stop taking wastewater, to 15 treatment plants by May 19. The 15 treatment facilities had been accepting the fracking water under special provisions of last year's Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) regulations. The wastewater is the chemically-treated fracking water used to break shale and released the natural gas.
Acting DEP Secretary Mike Krancer took the step Tuesday, citing elevated levels of bromide in rivers in western Pennsylvania where gas drilling has rapidly grown in the past three years.
"We now have more definitive scientific data, improved technology and increased voluntary wastewater recycling by industry. We used to have 27 grandfathered facilities; but over the last year, many have voluntarily decided to stop taking the wastewater and we are now doen to only 15. More than half of those facilities are now up for permit renewal. Now is the time to take action to end this practice."
Bromide is a salt and is present in drilling wastewater that is partially treated by sewer authorities and discharged into rivers that supply drinking water.
It reacts with chlorine disinfectants used by drinking water systems and creates trihalomethanes which can be harmful to people who drink water with elevated levels of the chemical for many years.
In addition to gas drilling, other industrial sources are also a major factor in the high salt levels that lead to trihalomethanes in drinking water.