The Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency has approved construction of a $35 million plant in Washington County, PA, to treat wastewater from nearby Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations, according to Somerset Regional Water Resources LLC (SRWR).

SRWR’s treatment process involves combining and treating together wastewater from drilling operations and acid mine drainage.

Pennsylvania’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB) recently approved new regulations that would significantly lower the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) permitted in wastewater discharges from drilling operations in the state’s prolific Marcellus shale area (see Daily GPI, May 18). The “first-of-its-kind regulation” would restrict wastewater discharges from drilling operations to a more stringent 500 milligrams per liter (mg/l) standard, while other new and expanded facilities in general use would be allowed discharges up to a threshold of 2,000 mg/l, EQB said.

The Washington County facility, to be built in Somerset Township, will treat up to 1.5 million gallons of wastewater from drilling and shale hydraulic fracturing operations daily, and is designed to meet the new TDS standards, the developer told the Daily American newspaper. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in the next three to six months and could take up to a year to complete.

EQB approved proposed rules that would strengthen Pennsylvania’s well construction standards and define a drilling company’s responsibility for responding to gas migration issues, requiring well operators to conduct quarterly inspections of all wells and report the results to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1).

The DEP has adopted a goal of preventing new sources of high-TDS wastewater from entering Pennsylvania’s waters beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Permits will not be issued to new sources of high-TDS industrial waste unless the applicant proposes to also install treatment for TDS that meets effluent standards, DEP said. Existing sources of high-TDS wastewater will be able to continue to operate under their existing permit limits and conditions until they propose to expand or to increase their discharge load, according to DEP’s proposal.

Gas migration problems in the state’s Marcellus Shale acreage can be avoided through proper well construction procedures, Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger told natural gas and oil company representatives gathered for a meeting in Harrisburg, PA, last week. Representatives of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an organization of more than 80 producer and supplier members, said at the meeting that most shale gas producers in the state already comply with the proposed regulations and treat or recycle all of their flow back water. And several companies cashing in on Marcellus Shale-related business across Pennsylvania told their stories last week to an audience of politicians and fellow businessmen, one of several community outreach efforts by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (see Daily GPI, March 24).

Experts estimate that nearly $4 billion was spent in Pennsylvania last year on Marcellus-related activities.

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