Two environmental groups have asked a federal court in Pittsburgh to enjoin the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport from accepting any wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling operations at its sewage plant, but an official with the facility says it hasn't accepted Marcellus wastewater for the last three months.

"We haven't accepted it since the 19th of April...and we have no plans on the table to take anything at this time. We also stopped accepting wastewater [associated] with coalbed methane," said Joe Rost, executive director of the McKeesport Authority.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has asked gas companies to treat potentially toxic Marcellus wastewater in a different fashion. "A lot of them [producers] are recycling [the wastewater]," he said, and some are trying to inject the wastewater into deep wells in Ohio. "But I understand that Ohio is trying to get them to stop," Rost told NGI's Shale Daily.

Earlier this year all drilling operators were directed by DEP to stop delivering wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas extraction to 15 facilities which previously accepted it, citing newly revised total dissolved solids regulations (see Shale Daily, April 20).

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania-based Clean Water Action and Homestead, PA-based Three Rivers Waterkeeper allege that the DEP bypassed permitting rules by allowing the McKeesport Authority to discharge up to 100,000 gal/d of Marcellus drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River, which supplies drinking water for nearly a half million people.

"Some sewage plants have formally decided to stop taking any oil and gas wastewater. However, McKeesport has taken no such action," countered Myron Arnowitt, the Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action.

"The McKeesport facility is incapable of removing hazardous chemicals present in the Marcellus Shale wastewater, yet it pours into the Monongahela just miles upstream from Penn-American and West View drinking water intakes," said Ned Mulcahy, executive director for Three Rivers Waterkeeper.

Pennsylvania enacted new rules in 2010 that set strict treatment standards for discharging oil and gas wastewater. However, the regulations grandfathered in all existing plants in Pennsylvania that discharged to rivers and streams. To date only one treatment plant operating in the state can meet the new standards, according to the environmental groups.