Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom produces millions of barrels of waste-water that end up in the state’s rivers and streams. The Associated Press reports that, between June 2009 and June 2010, at least 3.6 million barrels of that waste-water went to treatment plants that empty into rivers.
In August, the state Department of Environmental Protection imposed higher treatment standards for water released into rivers and streams. That water now must reach safe drinking water standards before its release.
Natural gas drilling requires lots of water, and much of it returns to the surface polluted with chemicals, heavy metals and salt.
Brady Russell of the environmental group Clean Water Action said most people think that public water comes from aquifers.
“But the truth is, in Pennsylvania. the overwhelming majority of people are drinking river water, they’re drinking surface water,” Russell said. “The biggest concern is that this is ultimately gonna be something that humans are exposed to.”
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Bill Muszynsky, who manages water research at the Delaware River Basin Commission, said the water contains enormous amounts of salt, which is difficult to eliminate.
“That salt has the potential to interfere with municipal treatment plant operations and it also has the potential to elevate the total dissolved-solids levels in streams which could impact either drinking water or biota that live in the stream,” he said.
Muszynsky said any treatment plants that accept the waste-water should be evaluated first.
The commission has proposed new rules that would require tracking that waste-water from the drill site to its final disposal site. Commissioners also want to impose stricter standards for treatment plants.