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Consol's WV Water Treatment Plant a Coal Mine Legacy

Consol Energy Inc. has opened a water treatment plant near Mannington, WV, that will be used to treat up to 3,500 gallons per minute of water from coal mines, some of which could be put to use in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in the area.

The Northern West Virginia Water Treatment Plant will be used to treat water from three Consol mining operations. The water will be pretreated at the mines before traveling to the facility through 34 miles of pipeline. At the plant, a process composed of a raw water pretreatment system, a reverse osmosis membrane system, evaporation and crystallization of reverse osmosis reject, and ancillary support systems will be used to further treat the water. Residuals from the treatment process will be disposed of in an on-site landfill. "As a result, no liquid or solid waste from the water treatment operations will leave Consol Energy's property," the company said.

And the $200 million facility could provide water for Consol's CNX Gas Corp. and others for their fracking operations. John Owsiany, director of waste systems and operations for Consol, recently told West Virginia legislators that fewer permits might be required for fracking operations in the state if drillers use treated water, since treatment plants are already permitted and bonded, according to Wheeling's Intelligencer newspaper. Other industries may hesitate to use treated mine water due to long-term liability concerns, but CNX will take advantage of the opportunity.

The Canonsburg, PA-based natural gas and coal producer uses water from its coal mines for fracking of its natural gas wells in Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, Oct. 17, 2012).

Following an algae bloom that killed a large quantity of fish and other aquatic life in a tributary of the Monongahela River in 2009, Consol temporarily stopped permitted discharges of water from its mines to the creek. In March 2011, Consol entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on plans to implement additional clean technologies and best practices at its operations. The Northern West Virginia Water Treatment Plant is a result of that agreement. Consol also agreed to pay EPA $5.5 million, without admitting any liability, and resolved alleged natural resource damages claims in a cash settlement of $500,000 with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

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