EPA bans disposal of fracking waste water at public treatment plants by Jon Hurdle, June 14, 2016, State Impact
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has banned the disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste water at public sewage plants, formalizing a voluntary practice that removed most fracking waste from Pennsylvania plants starting in 2011.
The EPA on Monday finalized a rule that prevents operators from disposing of waste from unconventional oil & gas operations at publicly owned treatment works [POTW’s].
The rule is designed to prevent the entry into public water systems of contaminants such as heavy metals, chemical additives and high concentrations of salt that are associated with fracking, and which public water systems are typically not equipped to treat.
Most energy companies stopped sending fracking waste water to public treatment plants starting in 2011 when the administration of former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett called on the industry to end the practice.
Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania Director for the environmental group Clean Water Action, said compliance with the Corbett administration’s request was “not 100 percent” but that most energy companies have since then found other ways of disposing of or treating the water, including industrial treatment plants, underground injection wells, and recycling.
“It’s not going to affect tons of sources right this second,” Arnowitt said.
But the existence of the new rule will deter any renewed effort to dispose of waste at public treatment plants if and when gas production recovers from its current slump, putting more pressure on disposal facilities in the region of the Marcellus and Utica Shales, Arnowitt said.
“It’s important that EPA put this protection in place prior to what are extremely likely future gas rushes in Pennsylvania,” Armowitt said. “We still have only drilled about 10-15 percent of what is expected for the Marcellus and that is not even considering the Utica.”
In 2008 and 2009, towns and cities along the Monongahela River in western Pennsylvania were advised to use bottled drinking water after minimally treated fracking waste was pumped into the river by municipal sewage plants during the early days of Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom.
“We are pleased to see EPA set clear rules to stop this practice,” Arnowitt said. “Pennsylvania residents have learned the hard way that when the oil and gas industry is allowed to use sewage plants as their dumping sites our water becomes undrinkable.”
The American Petroleum Institute criticized the new rule, saying it would provide no real benefit given that producers are not currently looking to dispose of their waste in public water treatment facilities.
[Illegal Dumping Cross Check: Apparently that’s true. Seems they’re “looking” to continue to dispose of their waste by dumping it on the ground. So much for “laws,” never mind “rules.”
… Citing DEP compliance records, he said the conventional industry was responsible for about half of the 248 water supplies contaminated or disrupted by drilling in Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2014 and had three times as many violations and DEP enforcement actions as shale drillers during 2014.
… One of the duties of the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Development Advisory Council will be to work with DEP to develop “an environmentally responsible and economically viable” option for managing the salty wastewater that surfaces in oil and gas wells, because small producers have struggled to find affordable options for its safe disposal.
The Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association surveyed its members about wastewater disposal in 2013 and nearly a third of the 80 operators who responded said they dump the wastewater directly on the ground from tanks connected to their wells, a practice that has been against state environmental laws for more than three decades.
End Illegal Dumping Cross Check]
But API spokeswoman Sabrina Fang said that it cuts off a potentially safe [??] source for future waste disposal.
“… This rule constitutes the permanent removal of an option that has the potential, with improved technology, to become a valuable tool for recycling treated water and returning this important resource to the hydrologic cycle,” wrote Fang in an email. [What’s the worry? They’ll sue and the courts will fast wipe out the rule]
“In a dynamic, innovation-driven industry like energy, we should not shut the door on technological improvements that have the potential to pay environmental and economic dividends for years to come,” said Fang. [Translation: “In a greed-driven industry, we need the cheapest options that put all the risk, harms and costs on the public.”]
The EPA said that fracking waste water contains contaminants such as total dissolved solids, organic and inorganic chemicals, and technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM), all of which can be harmful to human health.
“This potentially harmful wastewater creates a need for appropriate wastewater management infrastructure and practices,” the agency said in a statement on its web site.
Because treatment plants are not typically equipped to handle fracking waste, it can end up being discharged untreated from plants into waterways; can inhibit the plant’s biological treatment of regular waste; can accumulate in sewage sludge, and can facilitate the formation of harmful by-products, the agency said.
It said that operators don’t currently dispose of the waste at treatment plants but the rule has been published because there is a risk they will do so in future. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
2005 07 25: British Columbia’s Lax Code for Discharging Coalbed Methane Pollution into Rocky Mountain Headwaters Was Co-Authored by Gas Driller, EnCana Resumes Elkford CBM Project as a Weak Provincial ‘Code of Practice’ Comes into Effect Permitting Discharge of Contaminated Wastewater into Classified Trout Streams
2012 06 08: North Dakota Turns Blind Eye to Dumping of Fracking Waste in Waterways and Farmland, Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands
2012 08 15: Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes, Allan Shipman was found guilty of illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater. But he’s part of a much bigger problem
2012 09 20: The Earth’s invisible dump, With more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic waste having been injected into the inner earth, what happens if our belief that what goes down can’t come up is wrong?
Oilfield waste dumping (days after the dumping, the waste on the road was still black and reeked of diesel) on a public road in Rocky View County, Alberta Canada – LIPG member company, NAL, attempted to clean their mess up as a ‘good neighbor’ gesture. Alberta’s Energy Regulator did not inspect the dumping, even after citizens reported it.
Oil companies spray a road in Rocky View County, Alberta, with frac waste?
More spray by oil companies on public roads in winter in the frac’d area of the Lochend, Rocky View County, Alberta. Companies and officials claim the spay is to control dust. Snow packed, gravel roads do not require dust control.
Above three photos by FrackingCanada
2014 02 19; With law violations, hazards, waste dumping, air noise land water pollution, permanent water loss, community division, adverse health impacts, lies, fatalities, enabling regulators politicians courts, massive subsidies, PR Panel urges industry to change frac ‘conversation’
2015 02 10: How regulators “regulate” to make fracing safe: Let industry inject toxic frac waste into federally protected drinking water aquifers; “Levels of benzene up to 700 times federal standard have been found in waste water from fracking”
2015 02 15: Chemical explosions at Santa Clara Waste Water (treats, recycles, disposes waste from industrial sites), Suing insurer for $7 million; 55 injured after ‘bizarre’ chemical explosion in Santa Paula: “We just don’t know what this cocktail was”
2015 02 11: If injected industry waste pollutes your groundwater, can you sue for trespass? Texas Supreme Court Justices “found a way to avoid issuing that opinion that could have had huge economic and political implications” … “The impacts to the oil and gas industry would be huge.”
2015 03 03: California now says 2,500 wells dumping frac waste into protected aquifers, up from 532 in February. Regulators order oil drillers including Chevron Corp. and Linn Energy LLC to halt operations at 12 injection wells (two were issued cease and desist orders) because they may taint groundwater suitable for drinking and irrigation
Encana waste dumping on foodland at Rosebud Alberta in 2012 just west of where the company illegally fractured the community’s drinking water aquifers in 2004
2016 02 24: Aethon Energy (recently purchased Encana’s holdings in Moneta Divide oil & gas field) wants regulator to deregulate protected Madison aquifer to inject 365 million barrels of toxic drill & frac waste
This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean. [Emphasis added]
This explanation by BSEE presents a whole other set of environmental issues that the public should be outraged about when it comes to fracking in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “One of those being that after those fracking chemicals were cycled back to Shell’s rig, Shell eventually dumped those chemicals right back overboard into the Gulf. This in spite of no testing having been done to determine the impacts to the marine environment and ultimately human health as a possible consequence of eating Gulf seafood.”
Shell has a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to dump a certain amount of the fracking chemicals overboard with water that’s produced during oil processing operations. That water is regularly tested to prove that it is not polluted beyond the limits established by the permit.
“The dumping of fracking chemicals into the Gulf is standard operating procedure by Shell and every other operator engaged in this extremely high-risk extraction, and BSEE lets it happen,” Henderson said. So, whether it was via the spill or the overboard permit, “either way those fracking chemicals ended up in the Gulf. [Emphasis added]
“State oil regulators’ disturbing proposal to sacrifice dozens of aquifers to the oil industry is an enormous threat to California’s water supplies,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the CBD. “The federal EPA must stop this incredibly foolish plan to let oil companies dump polluted waste fluid into these underground water sources.”
… But it is possible to approximate. “It looks like there are roughly 48 oil fields that will be proposed for exemption through 60 applications (some fields have multiple applications),” Kretzmann added.
In other words, DOGGR is pushing for exemptions for the majority of injection wells that DOGGR itself has admitted are illegal.
“Rather than protect these groundwater resources, DOGGR is giving them away to the oil companies,” Kretzmann said. [Horrified emphasis added]
2016 06 12: Meet Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers: Nielle and Howard Hawkwood. Timing is everything. Why did AIMCo (ATB/Heritage Fund connected) announce $200 Million (bailout?) investment in “Quite leveraged” Calfrac on same day NDP Rural Caucus try to get Nielle Hawkwood’s frac ban resolution on floor of NDP’s Annual Convention?
2016 06 14: Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd deflecting the known frac risks and harms? Says “fracking affects regions differently,” wants to “wait until we get the science going” before making any decisions even though the science on fracing is already in
An excellent comment to Nikiforuk’s article on Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers, the Hawkwoods & Energy Minister McQuaig
annie_fiftyseven • June 15, 2016
Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Hawkwood and Mr. Nikiforuk for this article.
“But according to a government response to questions from The Tyee, the ‘flowback emissions study underway within the [regulator] will focus on characterizing the chemical composition of gaseous emissions from hydraulically fractured wells in the Cardium formation and will include NORM analysis.'”
Perfect, since the Alberta government seems keen on ignoring the massive amount of publicly available scientific literature on the numerous health harms attributed to the unconventional frac frenzy, I say they get their NDP science going, evacuate the residents and set-up Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd in a nice little pup-tent near to those operations.
And maybe they could bring along some certified health professionals to check-in on her while the emissions fill her cozy abode, and she consumes the water below. That way, the regulator, who has no public health mandate, could kill two birds with one frac’d stone; characterizing the emissions and analyzing the NORM, AND, observe how a human body, such as an energy minister, responds to all those toxics and radiation. And then make the results public.
And perhaps they could eventually place the entire NDP government throughout the other carpet-bombed areas, to determine the cumulative effects of “2,364,534 M3/YEAR FLOWBACK” (2.4 billion litres/year flowback) – with more to come.
I definitely think this would give McCuaig-Boyd, the NDP government, and the rest of us, a much better understanding of how “fracking affects regions [and politicians] differently.”
“Alberta New Democrats walked away from a serious discussion about fracking last weekend, prompting accusations that the party was stifling debate to placate industry – a charge that the Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd rejected.
… ‘From my viewpoint, it was a pretty fair process,’ she said. ‘From my perspective, I want fracking to be looked at from a scientific perspective. It’s not like we’re ignoring things.’
Energy Minister McCuaig-Boyd wants to ‘get the science going’ on fracking.
She added that fracking affects regions differently, and that she wanted to ‘wait until we get the science going,’ before making any decisions.”
She said her department had a scientific review underway.
‘It’s a huge issue, we all care about that. We all want good water, good air. I’ve said from the beginning, you can extract oil and gas from Alberta and you can still be environmentally responsible. I don’t see it as an either or,’ McCuaig-Boyd said.”
I wonder how McCuaig-Boyd’s tissues will react to products of reactions between different secret frac additives, among all the other crap, but that one should prove especially interesting. She needs to bed-down there for awhile, and then pop over to BC with her tent and entourage for more testing.
“Because the characteristics of flowback fluids changes with time, it is important that the characterization of flowback characteristics include a time series of analyses over the flowback period.
… Sampling programs have identified the typical components of shale gas fracturing flowback fluids. While proportions vary among formations, there is a consistent list of core components.
The range of total dissolved constituents varies from 10,000 – 250,000 mg/L; the salinity ranges are similar, pH typically ranges between 5.0 – 8.0, and most flowback contains:
– Additives used in fracturing.
– Products of reactions between different additives.
– Substances mobilized from within the formation.
– Substances contributed by multiple sources.
Flowback components detected in one set of analytical results included:
– Components of fracturing fluid.
– Dissolved solids (chlorides, sulfates, calcium).
– Metals (calcium, magnesium, barium, strontium).
– Suspended solids.
– Mineral scales (calcium carbonate; barium sulfate).
– Bacteria (acid producing bacteria; sulfate reducing bacteria).
– Friction reducers.
– Iron solids (iron oxide; iron sulfide).
– Dispersed solids (clay fines, colloids, silts).
– Acid gases (carbon dioxide; hydrogen sulfide).
Since flowback components are influenced by many different factors, they may vary over time.
Limited time-series field data from Montney Shale flowback, taken at different times, showed:
– Increased concentrations of total dissolved solids, chloride, and barium.
– Increased radioactivity levels.
– Increased calcium and magnesium hardness.
– Increased concentrations of iron – controlling additives were not used.
– Decreased sulfate levels.
– Decreased alkalinity levels (likely due to acid use).
– Increased metal concentrations.
Fracturing fluids pumped into the well and materials mobilized within the shale contribute to changes in hardness, sulfate, and metals. Specific changes depend on the shale formation, the fracturing fluids used, and fracture operations control.
While some fracturing fluid additives are consumed in the well (e.g. strong acids) or react during fracturing to form different products (e.g. polymer precursors), most additives will be present in flowback water.
The Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) identified several flowback components as significant environmental concerns:
– High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
– Gelling Agents.
Other additives of concern not identified in the GEIS include corrosion inhibitors, friction reducers, and microbiocides.
… Although most of the shale gas basins have not identified H2S as being a significant problem, the presence of H2S in both source water and flowback water has been a significant issue in the Horn River. Reports indicate that H2S has been measured in waters originating in the Debolt Formation at concentrations ranging from 200 mg/L up to 8000 mg/L with an average concentration of 5000 mg/L. In addition, flowback water with concentrations in the order of several hundred mg/L has been encountered.”
Oh, and while they’re at it, maybe they could do us all a favour and have independent scientists “analyze” the NORMs in the astronomical amount of produced water flowing through our provinces as well – “2,500,000 M3/DAY” (2.5 billion litres per day) – and more to come.
“Currently, there are no regulations for NORM management in Canada, however, the ERCB provides guidelines outlining NORM waste disposal options in Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
The largest-volume oil and gas waste stream that contains NORMs is produced water. At this time, the radium content of produced water going to injection wells is not regulated.”
ps. For the NDP’s next diversion, I think they should do their own study on the effects of smoking on kids from pre-school to grade 12. Just pick a school in Alberta and get the kids puffing. You never know, perhaps smoking will affect Alberta kids “differently,” than the rest of the world. They might just be able to smoke AND be safe. No either/or there, and it never hurts to try.