New Pennsylvania wastewater treatment rules, which apply to gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale, are now in effect, the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said.

The combination of the total dissolved solids (TDS) rule and a new rule requiring 150-foot buffers for Pennsylvania's approximately 20,000 miles of high-quality streams give waters in the state the strongest legal protection in history, according to DEP Secretary John Hanger.

The new permitted limit for discharges of wastewater from gas drilling is 500 milligrams per liter (mg/l) of TDS and 250 mg/l for chlorides. All new and expanding facilities that treat gas well wastewater must now meet these discharge limits. The rules cleared a state Senate review earlier this year (see Daily GPI, July 2).

"DEP's proposal of these new limits has already driven industry investment in new technologies to treat this wastewater, which is high in TDS," Hanger said. He noted that some in the gas industry are now treating their wastewater for reuse rather than discharging it into Pennsylvania waterways. One such company is Range Resources Corp., which last year began recycling all of the wastewater it produces at drilling operations in Washington County, PA (see Daily GPI, Oct. 20, 2009).

While Range has had success recycling wastewater, waste handling is still an issue in the Marcellus. Earlier this month DEP fined Atlas Resources for allowing used hydraulic fracturing fluid to overfill a wastewater pit and contaminate a watershed in Washington County last year (see Daily GPI, Aug. 19). And a recent review of DEP records by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association found numerous violations of state oil and gas laws in the Marcellus (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4).

The final rules became effective upon publication in the Aug. 21 issue of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which contains the full text of the rules at www.pabulletin.com, page 4835.

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