'Fracking' waste at core of water debate

PA wastewater plants stop treating water from natural gas drilling operators.

WASHINGTON (UPI) | April 14, 2011

Amid controversy over possible contamination, some wastewater treatment plants in Pennsylvania say they've stopped taking waste from gas "fracking" operations.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Katy Gresh said seven treatment plants, including six in southwestern Pennsylvania, have ceased processing "flowback" water from natural gas hydraulic fracturing sites, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Some wastewater plants are ill-equipped to treat the fluid, which is mostly water but also includes chemicals that could be harmful in drinking water, Environmental Protection Agency deputy administrator Robert Perciasepe told a Senate committee hearing on natural gas extraction.

Pennsylvania is demanding testing for harmful contaminates at facilities that treat fracking fluids and public water suppliers downstream from them, the Post-Gazette said.

Possible solutions would be to put new constraints on plants that treat fracking waste or to pre-treat the wastewater before it arrives at the plants, Perciasepe told the Senate committee.

Conrad "Dan" Volz, of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, testified about his study finding that a creek in Indiana County, Pa., near a treatment facility that took on flowback water, had a slew of contaminants.

A natural gas industry group has discounted the study as isolated and limited to an area with no impact on drinking water or other human activities, the Post-Gazette reported.

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