On May 19th drilling wastewater discharges untreated for Total Dissolved Solids to Pennsylvania's waters could be less than before the first Marcellus well was drilled in Pennsylvania. Achieving that milestone would be a genuine accomplishment for which state and federal regulators, the gas industry, environmental organizations, media, and water treatment companies like Eureka should be congratulated. Will it happen?
Secretary Krancer has called for the last 15 facilities that are still discharging drilling wastewater untreated for TDS and had been historically doing so prior to the August 2010 new TDS rule to stop doing so by May 19th.
If the 15 facilities honor the Secretary's request or DEP orders them to stop if the request is not honored, the volumes of drilling waste untreated for TDS going into rivers in Pennsylvania will be lower than prior to the Marcellus boom and close to zero. That will be a triumph for all involved.
Achieving the milestone will also demonstrate that the Marcellus development can with sound regulation and innovation by the industry bring positive change to Pennsylvania and our environment. When gas drilling was out of sight and mind in Pennsylvania, old industry practices and weak rules had been standard for many years.
Now 4 new, strong regulatory packages adopted from 2008 to 2011 are in effect. Old practices are being replaced by new technologies like recycling technology or treatment systems such as Eureka's that can clean frac water to the Safe Drinking Water standard. More companies are committing to practices that exceed regulatory requirements and amount to excellence. The work is not finished by any means, but important progress is being made in areas like water withdrawal and now drilling wastewater disposal.
Few thought that it possible that drilling wastewater would have less impact on our rivers and streams post- Marcellus than pre-Marcellus, but Pennsylvania is getting as close as May 19th to possibly achieving that success.