EPA Orders Frackers to Release More Information About How They Dispose of Toxic WastewatersMay 13th, 2011 | By Mark | Category: Fracking, Lead Articles
Just days after a new study found a direct link between natural gas fracking operations and contaminated drinking water, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered six Pennsylvania fracking operations to disclose more information about how they get rid of the toxic water produced by the process.
The EPA also ordered a seventh company to stop dumping fracking fluid in an abandoned mine in Pennsylvania.
Fracking is a process in which drillers inject tens of thousands of gallons of toxic liquid deep underground to break up rock formations, freeing natural gas trapped within.
The process has become the target of a growing body of critics, and several recent academic studies have pointed to serious environmental consequences associated with fracking, including drinking water contaminated with methane.
“We want to make sure that the drillers are handling their wastewater in an environmentally responsible manner,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “EPA is continuing to work with PADEP officials who are on the frontlines of permitting and regulating natural gas drilling activities in Pennsylvania.”
The drillers had been disposing of their toxic loads at local wastewater treatment plants, many of which are ill-equipped to handle the noxious brew, according to the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment.
Recent surface water sampling has found elevated levels of bromide in rivers in the Western portion of the state, where the majority of natural gas drilling is taking place. Bromide, itself non-toxic, turns into a combination of potentially unsafe compounds called Total Trihalomethanes once it is combined with chlorine for disinfection at water treatment facilities.
“While there are several possible sources for bromide other than shale drilling wastewater, we believe that if operators would stop giving wastewater to facilities that continue to accept it under the special provision, bromide concentrations would quickly and significantly decrease,” acting Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer said.
The six companies that received the notice from the EPA are: Atlas Resources L.L.C; Talisman Energy USA; Range Resources – Appalachia, L.L.C.; Cabot Gas and Oil Corporation; SWEPI, LP; and, Chesapeake Energy Corporation. According to the EPA, these six companies account for more than 50 percent of the natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania
Drillers have refused to disclose the chemical content of the fracking fluids, saying that the information is a proprietary trade secret, but publicly available information indicates that the fluid contains at least 50 different chemicals, including formaldehyde, ethylhexanol, glutaraldehyde, boric acid and methanol.