The story below was in my local paper and I just about blew a gasket after I read it. Pennsylvania is having a shale gas boom in the northwest part of the state. The Marcellus Shale blankets this part of PA. There is a frenzy of drilling companies making millions and leaving devastation in their wake. They drill on people’s properties while they continue to live there. It is well known and documented that people’s well water has been contaminated to the point that their spigot water can be set on fire.
I thought these problems were hundreds of miles away from my house, but now I know differently. The wastewater from this fracking method of obtaining shale gas is filled with carcinogens, chemicals, and is seven times as salty as ocean water. PA has had virtually no rules or regulations for the disposal of this toxic brew. Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Hatfield Township. Those liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which winds through Bucks and Montgomery counties on its way to the Delaware River.
Hatfield is only 5 miles from my house. They just dumped this shit into the creeks around my house. This is where our drinking water comes from. This is where the difference between a Republican and a Libertarian becomes clear. Republicans think corporations can do no wrong and that the market will regulate itself. Therefore, no rules, regulations or laws are necessary. Libertarians believe in the rule of law. If you cause harm to others, you should be imprisoned, fined, or punished.
Destroying the lives of human beings by dumping toxic wastewater into streams and rivers is criminal in my humble opinion. Contaminating well water and then denying you did so and accepting the consequences is criminal in my humble opinion. These corporate executive scumbags need to pay for their crimes. They have their PR snakes spinning and lying and spewing mistruths in their efforts to enrich themselves. If pouring 44,000 gallons of toxic sludge into a creek isn’t dangerous to the public, as claimed by Cabot, then how about this:
I want the CEO of Cabot Oil & Gas, his wife, his kids, his executive team and their families to go one mile downstream on the Neshaminy Creek and wait until they release the 44,000 gallons of “non-harmful” waste water upstream. Then I want them to start drinking the water as it flows past them. Then I’d want them to have to drink the water from that stream everyday for the next 10 years. Would these pricks agree to that? No fucking way.
These shale gas wells across PA are depleted rapidly. You can bet that in 10 years, this section of PA will be a wasteland of toxic ponds, contaminated well water, and depressed real estate prices inhabited by poor people who shockingly are getting cancer at a rate 50 times higher than expected. The scum who run big corporations in America need to be strung up by their balls.
Gas boom has major downside in Pennsylvania
The Hatfield Township Municipal Authority plant, in Colmar. (AP photo)
The natural gas boom gripping parts of the U.S. has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.
Not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush.
There, the liquid that gushes from gas wells is only partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water.
In the two years since the frenzy of activity began in the vast underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania has been the only state allowing waterways to serve as the primary disposal place for the huge amounts of wastewater produced by a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants, but allowed any existing operations to continue discharging water into rivers.
At least 3.6 million barrels of the waste were sent to treatment plants that empty into rivers during the 12 months ending June 30, according to state records. That is enough to cover a square mile with more than 8½ inches of brine.
Researchers are still trying to figure out whether Pennsylvania’s river discharges, at their current levels, are dangerous to humans or wildlife. Several studies are under way, some under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.
State officials, energy companies and the operators of treatment plants insist that with the right safeguards in place, the practice poses little or no risk to the environment or to the hundreds of thousands of people, especially in western Pennsylvania, who rely on those rivers for drinking water.
But an Associated Press review found that Pennsylvania’s efforts to minimize, control and track wastewater discharges have sometimes failed.
Of the roughly 6 million barrels of well liquids produced in a 12-month period examined by The AP, the state couldn’t account for the disposal method for 1.28 million barrels, about a fifth of the total, due to a weakness in its reporting system and incomplete filings by some energy companies.
Some public water utilities that sit downstream from big gas wastewater treatment plants have struggled to stay under the federal maximum for contaminants known as trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer if swallowed over a long period.
Regulations that should have kept drilling wastewater out of the important Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million people in four states, were circumvented for many months.
In 2009 and part of 2010, energy company Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Hatfield Township. Those liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which winds through Bucks and Montgomery counties on its way to the Delaware River.
Regulators put a stop to the practice in June, but the more than 300,000 residents of the 17 municipalities that get water from the creek or use it for recreation were never informed that numerous public pronouncements that the watershed was free of gas waste had been wrong.
“This is an outrage,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. “This is indicative of the lack of adequate oversight.”
The situation in Pennsylvania is also being watched carefully by regulators in other states, some of which have begun allowing some river discharges.
New York also sits over the Marcellus Shale, but then-Gov. David Paterson slapped a moratorium on high-volume fracking last month while environmental regulations are drafted.
Industry representatives and the state’s top environmental official insist that the wastewater from fracking has not caused serious harm anywhere in Pennsylvania, in part because it is safely diluted in the state’s big rivers.
But most of the largest drillers say they are taking action and abolishing river discharges anyway.
Cabot, which produced nearly 370,000 barrels of waste in the period examined by The AP, said that since the spring it has been reusing 100 percent of its well water in new drilling operations, rather than trucking it to treatment plants for disposal.
“Cabot wants to ensure that everything we are doing is environmentally sound,” said company spokesman George Stark. “It makes environmental sense and economic sense to do it.”
All 10 of the biggest drillers in the state say they have either eliminated river discharges in the past few months, or reduced them to a small fraction of what they were a year ago. Together, those companies accounted for 80 percent of the wastewater produced in the state.
The biggest driller, Atlas Resources, which produced nearly 2.3 million barrels of wastewater in the review period, said it is now recycling all water produced by its wells in their first 30 days of operation, when the flowback is heaviest. Half of the rest is now sent to treatment plants, but “our ultimate goal is to have zero surface discharge of any of the water,” said Atlas senior vice president Jeff Kupfer.
John Hanger, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said he believed that the amount of drilling wastewater being recycled is now about 70 percent — an achievement he credits to tighter state regulation pushing the industry to change its ways.
“The new rules, so far, appear to be working,” he said. “If our rules were not changed … we would have all of it being dumped in the environment, because it is the lowest cost option,” Hanger said.
As for the unauthorized discharges into Neshaminy Creek, Cabot spokesman Stark said the company was aware that its waste shouldn’t have been going to facilities in the Delaware Basin. He said he wasn’t sure, however, whether Cabot knew where the firm it had hired to treat the waste, PSC Environmental Services, was discharging the fluids.
Regulators did not impose any fines after Cabot and the two treatment plants halted the discharges.
Clifford David, president of the Heritage Conservancy, a nature and land preservation group in Bucks County, said he was wasn’t aware that gas drilling wastes had been discharged in the creek.
He said he doesn’t believe any wastewater discharges should be allowed without a thorough treatment that removes all contaminants that could degrade a waterway.
“It seems to me that we have the technology and the capacity to take that water and clean it to a level where it’s a higher water quality than what’s in the river to begin with,” he said.