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.
NEW INJECTION WELL IN ELK COUNTY BRINGS PA. TOTAL
TO 9 DISPOSAL WELLS
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
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
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.
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).
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
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.