Briny water flows into area streams

Briny water flows into area streams by Natasha Khan, Fbruary 13, 2013, Observer-reporter.Com
When Marcellus Shale drilling started to boom in Greene and Washington counties, the two retired outdoorsmen began conducting weekly water tests of local streams and tributaries. Dufalla, 66, a retired park ranger and deputy fish and game warden, runs the citizen water testing program for the local chapter of The Izaak Walton League, a conservation group. Members test every headwater stream in Greene County and many in Washington and Fayette counties. And they’ve teamed up with West Virginia University’s Water Research Institute to check their methods and test some of the same water as the group.

Recently, Dufalla’s group has found there’s something unexpected in mine waste – bromide. On its own, bromide is a salt found in many places. But when it’s mixed with chlorine at a water treatment plant, it can create cancer-causing agents called trihalomethanes. Dufalla wants to know where the bromide is coming from, since it isn’t usually found at high levels in mine discharge. He has repeatedly asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the governor and energy industry officials, he said. But he receives no answer or he’s brushed off. Dufalla just wants someone to pay attention and investigate. Without an answer from officials, Dufalla said he and members of his group are left to form their own conclusions. Somebody, they believe, must be dumping wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, into coal mines. When asked what safeguards are in place for disposing of frack wastewater, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition cited the state’s “robust” regulatory system. It “ensures a truly cradle-to-grave approach to the overall management of water,” Travis Windle wrote in an email.

In recent years, numerous water treatment plants in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia have found dangerously high levels of THMs in water they then had to treat for drinkability. Jeff Kovach, general manager of the Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority in Washington County, said his plant didn’t have problems with THM levels before the drilling boom started. He said he believes the natural gas industry was initially causing the higher levels. “In my own opinion, absolutely, because they are everywhere around here,” said Kovach. The discharge from Clyde Mine, an abandoned mine overseen by the DEP, is “pretty scary,” he said. The Tri-County plant is downstream on the Monongahela. … It’s been widely reported that an increase in bromide in Pennsylvania’s rivers came when the drilling industry dropped off its wastewater from fracking – the horizontal drilling process used in the Marcellus Shale – at sewage treatment plants.

In early 2011, DEP Secretary Michael Krancer called on the industry to stop taking wastewater to treatment plants. The industry voluntarily complied, and bromide levels on the Monongahela decreased, according to a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University. But Dufalla’s water testing from 2012 shows higher levels of bromide in the creeks and streams funneling into the Monongahela River. “Every one of them happens to be in mine discharges,” he said. A U.S. Geological Survey study looked at tests conducted in 1999 to determine the hydrochemical makeup of 140 abandoned mines in Pennsylvania. The study found bromide showed up in all the mine discharges that were sampled at less than .6 milligrams per liter. The WRI sampled the same locations as Dufalla’s group in Greene and Washington counties in November. They showed bromide coming out of mine discharges at levels as much as 10 times higher than the 1999 study. “My guess is, if bromides are turning up in mine water, it’s probably because someone has dumped it there,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WRI.

Dufalla said he informs the DEP when he finds an anomaly and the agency has been good about testing the water over the past two years. However, “the responses we get back are not acceptable,” he said. “We were told, ‘Well, it’s only minimal pollution from these things.’ We were told we don’t have the money to correct these problems.” John Poister, DEP spokesman in Pittsburgh, said the agency sometimes conducts bromide tests on some rivers and streams, but isn’t required to. … “There is no EPA standard for bromides, therefore we do not track them in streams and creeks,” Poister said. That’s where the problem comes in, Dufalla said. “The EPA must set a standard for bromide,” he said, and if they don’t, the DEP should.

To understand their perspective, it’s important to know something about recent Greene County history and a man named Allan Shipman. Shipman operated Allan’s Waste Water, which hauled Marcellus Shale wastewater. He was convicted last year of dumping millions of gallons of wastewater, sludge, restaurant grease and other sewage into mine shafts, streams and onto roadsides for six years in Southwestern Pennsylvania. “I just think that there were a lot more people doing what he was doing, but he was the only one that got caught,” said Greene County Sheriff Richard Ketchem. “And then all of a sudden when he got caught you don’t see that anymore.” After a two-year investigation by the state attorney general’s office, Shipman was sentenced to seven years of probation, 1,750 hours of community service and nearly $400,000 in fines and restitution. … Terri Davin, president of the Greene County Watershed Alliance, said the industry has an “out of sight, out of mind” policy. “My theory is, whenever there’s a hole, you can use it,” Davin said of the dumping that takes place. “It’s open season down here.” Davin partially blames the residents of Greene County for not speaking up about Shipman. “The guilty people here are us,” she said about Greene County residents. “We saw this happening and we didn’t come together and question enough.” She said that with the amount of natural gas drilling and coal mining going on in Greene County, it’s better to question things than to turn a blind eye. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

NEWS ALERT: Water Supply for Hamlet of Rosebud Contaminated September 15, 2006 ROSEBUD: Last night representatives from Alberta Environment, Wheatland County and the Calgary Health Region issued a “water usage advisory” to the residents of Rosebud, located one hour east of Calgary. The advisory warns residents to use bottled or filtered water due to the presence of a carcinogen in their local water supply: bromodichloromethane. Bromodichloromethane is toxic compound formed as a byproduct of adding chlorine to drinking water. According the US Environmental Protection Agency it is also a common byproduct of coal bed methane production

Water usage advisory issued for Rosebud September 21, 2006 ….the hamlet’s water treatment plan is currently unable to maintain low levels of a disinfectant byproduct called bromodichloromethane…. ]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.