Clean Water Action

November 13, 2013

Gas drillers point to safety of barges

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 2, 2013
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Barges have a safety record that environmentalists and gas drillers can both point to as supporting their opposing views about a Coast Guard proposal to allow fracking waste to be shipped along the nation’s rivers to disposal sites.

They average seven large spills a year on waterways that are a source of drinking water for some communities, an argument for environmentalists. For supporters of the plan, that number is an improving record that is better than the trucking industry’s although it lags behind railroads.

A Port of Pittsburgh Commission breakdown shows chemicals moved by barge locally include gasoline, kerosene, solvents, fertilizers, benzene, toluene and ammonia. But that doesn’t mean that fracking waste, which may contain toxic chemicals and radioactive material, is an easy addition.

“Nobody has figured out what the safe thing is to do if fracking water gets in our drinking water. So yes, I have concerns about shipping it by river,” said Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Fracking fluid is about 99.5 percent water and sand, but the remaining 0.5 percent contains additives that vary from company to company, said Patrick Creighton, spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a drilling trade group.

Peter Stephaich, chairman and CEO of Washington County-based Campbell Transportation Co., which operates about 40 tows and 500 barges, said tank barges used today are double-hulled, meaning liquid chemicals are separated from the rivers by two layers of steel.…

October 30, 2013

Environmental group sues company over waste dumped into in Allegheny River

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 28, 2013
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An industrial treatment plant near Allegheny National Forest is dumping illegal amounts of salty, contaminant-laden wastewater from drillers into the Allegheny River in violation of state and federal laws, an environmental group charged in a federal lawsuit.

The state director of Clean Water Action said the group can’t say whether Waste Treatment Corp.’s discharges into the river in Warren include wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of getting gas from the Marcellus shale.

“From our perspective, we just don’t want it in the river,” said Myron Arnowitt, whose group asked a federal judge in the lawsuit filed Monday to order Waste Treatment to stop discharging and fix any damage done to the river.

Waste Treatment did not return a call for comment.

The company has said it does not discharge fracking water, Arnowitt said. Marcellus drillers statewide announced a voluntary effort in 2011 to stop sending fracking water to such plants.

The company has a discharge permit dating to 2003, but Arnowitt said it does not cover the types of pollutants it is discharging. The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing an application for a new permit.

“We’re concerned that DEP is delaying action,” he said. “While they’re trying to figure out what this permit should be, (the company) continues to discharge.”

A DEP spokesman said he could not comment.

The DEP in September filed notice in Commonwealth Court that it was suing Waste Treatment but did not include any specific complaints.

A DEP study last year found pollutants reduced water quality downstream of the plant to levels that can’t support aquatic life, leaving the water two- to four-times saltier than sea water, Arnowitt said. Warren is about 150 miles upriver from Pittsburgh.

Clean Water Action is suing under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.


September 16, 2013

Shale criminal charges stun drilling industry

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 12, 2013
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s decision to prosecute a major Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller for a 2010 wastewater spill has sent shock waves through the industry.

But environmentalists Wednesday hailed the prosecution of the Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary as a departure from the soft treatment they say the industry has received from Pennsylvania regulators.

“We have been very concerned about enforcement in the Marcellus, and we welcome the attorney general’s taking an active role,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director of Clean Water Action.

Kane’s office announced charges Tuesday against XTO Energy Inc. for discharging more than 50,000 gallons of toxic wastewater from storage tanks at a gas-well site in Lycoming County.

XTO in July settled federal civil charges over the incident by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and deploy a plan to improve wastewater-management practices. The consent decree included no admissions of liability.

The Fort Worth, Texas, drilling company, which Exxon acquired in 2010, said it had worked cooperatively with federal and state authorities to clean up the spilled waste, known as “produced water.” XTO excavated and removed 3,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site.…

August 9, 2013

Groups Score Victory in Fracking Wastewater Fight

Source:, August 7, 2013

If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent each day of the past three years dumping up to 500,000 gallons of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River.

Instead, the plant has not discharged a drop of waste into the Monongahela River, a drinking water source for 350,000 people. And under a new permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the plant will not be allowed to discharge anything, unless it proves it can comply with the law and treat all of the contaminants in fracking wastewater.

The DEP had initially tried to fast-track the planned wastewater plant in Masontown, PA, quietly allowing Shallenberger Construction Inc. to dump inadequately treated fracking wastewater directly into the Monongahela River until the company built all of the necessary treatment facilities at the plant.

“When fracking began in western Pennsylvania, the gas industry treated our rivers as a convenient place to dispose of their waste,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “We knew we had to act and we are glad to see that this agreement upholds the protection for our drinking water that every Pennsylvanian expects and deserves.”

In 2008, pollution levels spiked so high in a 70-mile stretch of the Monongahela River that the entire city of Pittsburgh was urged to drink bottled water. The DEP acknowledged that the problem was due in large part to untreated fracking wastewater being discharged from sewage treatment plants. The Shallenberger plant would have added to the contamination

December 17, 2012

Maryland Stuck in Study Mode over Merit of Gas Drilling

Source: The Washington Post, December 9, 2012
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As states in the mid-Atlantic region lined up for the jobs and tax revenue that would come with drilling deep into the shale to release gas, Maryland held back.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and other state officials said no thanks, wary that poisonous chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing could contaminate groundwater in rural areas where it matters most.

But there are signs that Maryland’s resolve is weakening. Time is slowly running out on a de facto drilling moratorium imposed by O’Malley, who issued an executive order last year that barred the Department of the Environment (MDE) from approving drilling permits until a scientific study costing $1.5 million could be completed. The state did not fund the study, and the deadline for completing it is summer 2013.

In a bid to keep the moratorium in place, opponents of fracturing – widely known as fracking – planned to meet this weekend in Baltimore to brainstorm on how to craft legislation to extend the deadline and fund the study on whether drilling is safe.

“What we’re hoping for with this session is a very strong shot across the bow,” said state Rep. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), who has sponsored numerous pieces of anti-drilling legislation. “No studies, no fracking. Until these studies are undertaken, there will be no drilling in Maryland.”

But in the past legislative session, the American Petroleum Institute thwarted a state Senate bill that sought to place a fee on the oil and gas industry for the study, which would investigate the quality of Maryland’s underground water in Garrett County, where the state’s Marcellus Shale is most abundant, and examine whether chemicals used in fracking would taint it.…

January 24, 2012

Environmental groups, McKeesport settle Marcellus-related lawsuit

Source:, January 24, 2012

Two environmental groups and McKeesport’s municipal authority have settled a federal lawsuit that claimed the city was violating state and federal environmental laws by treating wastewater from Marcellus shale drilling operations, according to court documents.

Attorneys for both sides and representatives for the city, the municipal authority, Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer ordered the case closed Monday after the attorneys said they reached a settlement.

The judge’s order doesn’t provide any details of the settlement.

The two groups claimed that McKeesport’s sewage treatment plant was accepting drilling wastewater even though its permit doesn’t provide for the treatment of industrial waste. The state Department of Environmental Protection in April asked drillers to stop sending wastewater to municipal sewage treatment plants and asked plants to stop accepting the wastewater.…

March 24, 2011

Shale drillers tout recycling as option for wastewater

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer , March 23, 2011
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The level of salty compounds in the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh spiked above acceptable limits in late 2008 — not a health risk, according to federal and state regulators, but drinking water drawn from the river tasted like mud.

Environmentalists blamed the contamination on Marcellus Shale gas-drilling discharges. Natural-gas drillers pointed to other sources in the historically stressed river: pollutants from coal mines and other industrial discharges.

Which source was to blame didn’t really matter. What mattered was that the Monongahela’s elevated levels of total dissolved solids — salty compounds known as TDS that can’t be removed by conventional treatment — set off alarms, a clarion that Pennsylvania’s streams would be unable to assimilate the huge volumes of wastewater expected with the coming Marcellus Shale boom, then in its infancy.

Regulators have been hard-pressed to keep tabs on the vast wastewater volumes ever since, as development of the Marcellus Shale has expanded across the state.…

January 11, 2011

Chromium 6 found naturally, but levels in valley a concern

Publication Date 01/08/2011
Source: Modesto Bee (CA)
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A likely cancerous drinking water contaminant featured in the movie “Erin Brockovich” showed up in relatively high levels in hundreds of tests throughout Stanislaus County and neighboring communities.

Some public officials say the data may be unreliable and have little meaning until the government sets a new standard, a process just getting under way.

Drinking water advocates blame pressure from industrial polluters for putting the review seven years behind schedule.…

December 7, 2010

EPA Subpoenas Halliburton For Data on ‘Hydrofracking’

Source: ENR
By Pam Hunter

The Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 9 issued a subpoena to oil-field services contractor Halliburton for failing to provide information the agency needs to complete its congressionally mandated study on hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking.”

Eight other hydrofracking firms that received voluntary information requests in September agreed to submit “timely and complete information” to EPA, the agency said.

But Houston-based Halliburton took another tack, refusing to give EPA full data on the company’s hydraulic fracturing operations over the past five years. “Because the agency’s request was so broad, potentially requiring the company to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets, we have met with the agency and had several additional discussions with EPA personnel in order to help narrow the focus of their unreasonable demands,” Halliburton said. The company said it had posted on its website information about many of the chemicals used.…