Natural gas drillers seek Coast Guard OK to transport fracking wastewater by barge

     Ships and barges are idle in the middle of the Delaware River between Chester, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. (Chris Gardner/ AP Photo, file)

    Ships and barges are idle in the middle of the Delaware River between Chester, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. (Chris Gardner/ AP Photo, file)

    Natural gas drillers in Pennsylvania are producing so much wastewater from fracking that they’re asking the U.S. Coast Guard to allow it to be transported via barges. However, the Coast Guard won’t approve that request it if it doesn’t know what’s in the wastewater.

    Not all fracking waste is created equal. It tends to change depending on the recipe a driller uses to frack a well.

    The Coast Guard wants to require shippers to test the fluid they’re carrying to make sure it doesn’t contain hazardous materials that aren’t normally allowed to travel on the country’s waterways.

    Environmental groups are concerned about the risk of spills. 

    “This wastewater … really puts the public at risk, the public’s health at risk. It jeopardizes the billions of dollars that our nation has invested in protecting our waterways and providing safe drinking water to people,” said Tracy Carluccio with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

    Most fracking wastewater is transported on trucks and rail cars. Barges are more cost effective and can carry thousands more gallons of waste.

    Carluccio, who said she believes the Coast Guard hasn’t studied the possible environmental impacts, said transporting fracking wastewater should be subject to stronger regulation.

    “It might be quicker, it might be easier and it might be more amenable to drillers looking to get rid of a glut of frack waste,” she said. “But it doesn’t provide the kind of comprehensive analysis needed for this extremely dangerous activity.”

    The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is considering taking legal action. The proposal is open for public comment until the end of the month.

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