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May 28, 2013 - Those living over the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania have been told repeatedly by industry and others that Pennsylvania's geology is not conducive to the use of deep injection disposal wells like you see in other states. This is probably one of the reasons rivers have been used for the disposal of drilling wastewater, creating a myriad of potential health problems.

One is due to the creation of trihalomethanes in citizens' drinking water when high TDS water is chlorinated. Some water utilities have even switched to chloramination to address the problem.

Brominated trihalomethanes can be particularly harmful and many small public water utilities are not equipped to deal with them as well as larger public water providers. The Allegheny River in Pittsburgh continues to have issues with bromides, partly due to the dumping of drilling wastewater from treatment plants located upriver.


February 2, 2014 - Seneca Resources Corp. has received federal approval to operate a new drilling wastewater injection well in Elk County, and more of those deep injection wells for the disposal of Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling wastewater are on tap for Pennsylvania. The EPA announced last week that it had approved Seneca's proposal to convert one of its existing vertical gas wells into an injection well that will pump up to 60,000 gallons a day of drilling wastewater and salty brine about 2,400 feet below the surface into the Elk 3 Sandstone formation. The EPA has permitted 30,000 Class II injection wells for drilling brine and wastewater disposal nationally -- about a third of those in Texas -- but the Seneca disposal well is just the ninth such well approved in Pennsylvania. (By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Other Pennsylvania solutions for disposing of millions of gallons of shale wastewater (which often amounts to 1-million gallons per well) has been trucking it to Ohio for deep injection, but episodes of deep injection causing earthquakes near Youngstown have given pause, even if only at a few locations statewide.

VIDEO - July 2015 Meeting

Ohio Injection Wells for O&G Wastewater (2:39:36)

One also has to take into account all the air pollution created by these tens of thousands of diesel tri-axle truck trips since each tanker can only carry about 4,000 gallons (that's 250 roundtrips per average well with many truck trips easily exceeding 100 miles each). 

drilling wastewater tanker trucks
Two tanker trucks, holding approximately 4,000 gallons each,
are only marked with "Residual Waste."

In an attempt to recycle wastewater for future fracking, some drilling companies have made use of huge 13-million gallon impoundment dams which seem to invariably create well water contamination, chemical odors or health issues for those living in the vicinity. Reports indicate that at least one Pennsylvania aquifer has been contaminated from impoundment leaks (the Yeager Impoundment in Amwell Township). Some of these impoundments been removed or drained under pressure from neighbors and lawsuits (Best Impoundment in Hopewell Township, Stewart Impoundment in Mount Pleasant Township).

Yeager Impoundment Dam
Yeager Impoundment Dam in Amwell Township, Pa.

Work proceeded in early 2013 to build a shoreline tank farm facility near Wheeling, West Virginia for storing and pumping frac wastewater onto river barges, so it can be floated on the Ohio River to a yet unannounced destination, that is, if the US Coast Guard approves the barging plan.


Indeed, disposing of this toxic wastewater, which contains both natural and manmade toxins, is one of biggest problems the shale gas industry faces if they continue to frac with water. But water is cheap, abundant in some areas, and it produces higher pressure than other methods like using liquid nitrogen.  But the environmental consequences remain formidable. If Marcellus drilling expands to the forecast 100,000 wells in Pennsylvania, you could be looking at up to 100 billion gallons of these toxic waste fluids requiring disposal, liquids that were once over 90-percent ordinary everyday water.

Disposal Wells

Source: US EPA - May 2013

When oil and gas are produced, large amounts of brine are typically brought to the surface. Disposal Wells inject brines and other fluids associated with the production of oil and natural gas or natural gas storage operations. The brine is segregated from the oil and is then injected into the same underground formation or a similar formation. Often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metals and radioactive substances. It can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water or the land surface.

When states began to implement rules preventing disposal of brine to surface water bodies and soils, injection became the preferred way to dispose of this waste fluid. All oil and gas producing states require the injection of brine into the originating formation or into formations that are similar to those from which it was extracted. Class II disposal wells can only be used to dispose of fluids associated with oil and gas production. The approximately 144,000 Class II wells in operation in the United States inject over 2 billion gallons of brine every day. Most oil and gas injection wells are in Texas, California, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Disposal wells are issued permits.  The owners or operators of the wells must meet all applicable requirements, including strict construction and conversion standards and regular testing and inspection. Section 1425 allows states to demonstrate that their existing standards are effective in preventing endangerment of USDWs. These programs must include permitting, inspection, monitoring, and record-keeping and reporting that demonstrates the effectiveness of their requirements.




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