Environmental board approves water rules

    Pennsylvania is taking steps to reduce drinking water pollution from natural gas drilling in the underground Marcellus Shale.

    Natural gas drilling is booming in Pennsylvania’s rich underground shale. But environmental advocates say the state has done little to protect the environment. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens reports that new rules may placate their concerns.
    (Photo: courtesy etftrends)

    Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board recently approved rules to restrict the pollution in wastewater at drilling sites. The Board’s chair is also the Secretary for Environmental Protection, John Hanger. He says the pollutants — called total dissolved solids (TDS) — go straight into drinking water.

    Hanger: Drinking water plants have no equipment to remove total dissolved solid pollution when it comes into the plant. The result is that river water and TDS pollution flows right through the drinking water plant all the way to the customer’s tap.

    The new rules would require companies to discharge water that meets drinking water quality standards.

    Staaf: We believe it is a fairly stringent standard.

    Erika Staaf is a clean water advocate at Penn Environment. Environmental advocates around the state applauded the Board’s vote. However, they also say the state has been slow at regulating the pollution from an industry that has thousands of drilling permits. Brady Russell, the Eastern Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action, says the rules are late in coming, but he’s grateful nonetheless.

    Russell: This is Pennsylvania catching up. Frankly, Pennsylvania let Marcellus Shale drilling start in our state without giving much consideration to it and not making any kind of plan for our to protect the environment. Really we just gave drillers the green light.

    An independent commission has to approve the rules before they are adopted.

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