CSSD expands Its wastewater treatment standard in Appalachia

Scientist examining water pollution
Source: DollarPhotoClub

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a collaboration of environmental organizations and energy companies to encourage prudent and responsible development of shale gas resources in the Appalachian region, announced today that it has expanded its wastewater Performance Standard 1 to address the treatment of shale wastewater at permitted facilities.

The expanded standard represents the culmination of a year-long effort by a working group of stakeholders from industry and NGO participating organizations to address conditions necessary for safe surface discharge of treated shale wastewater.

The original performance standard identified recycling and underground injection as acceptable methods of managing produced water and recognized that there was also a need to address methods of wastewater treatment and discharge. For this reason, it contained a commitment that the group would address wastewater treatment by the Fall of 2014. In evaluating water management options, the working group took into account risks associated with long distance trucking, and the fact that outlets for recycling grow more limited as operations mature and begin to produce more water than they can recycle. After examining current federal and state regulatory frameworks, EPA guidance, and available technologies, CSSD’s working group determined that discharge through regulated Centralized Waste Treatment (CWT) facilities would be the most appropriate expansion of wastewater disposal options.

Some wastewater treatment facilities designed specifically to treat shale wastewater are now capable of treating shale gas wastewater to levels at or better than receiving stream standards, which makes them an acceptable alternative to zero discharge.

Based on a review of existing permits and technologies, CSSD determined that the best available treatment technology currently in operation involves a combination of distillation and biological treatment and, as necessary, reverse osmosis. Because technology in this area is quickly evolving, the expanded standard allows operators to use CWT facilities that utilize technologies or combinations of technologies other than those identified on the condition that they demonstrate they can achieve equivalent or superior treatment.

“This expansion is ambitious in that it marks the first CSSD performance standard that goes beyond producer-controlled operations,” said Susan LeGros, President of CSSD.

“Our standards to date have focused on activities at an operator’s site; this expanded standard addresses what happens to an operator’s wastewater when it leaves the site and goes to a treatment facility. By requiring operators to incorporate rigorous due diligence and ongoing monitoring in choosing the facilities they use, we are helping to raise the performance bar across the industry.”

CSSD anticipates that, over time, with operational, technological and scientific advancements, additional revisions may be necessary. The organization plans to work with its industry and NGO participants to continue the ongoing scientific inquiry and refine the testing programs as necessary.

LeGros emphasized that “The goals of any wastewater treatment standard should be to minimize potential environmental and human health impacts, immediate as well as cumulative, while providing operational flexibility that meets an achievable but high standard of performance.”

The full standard is publicly accessible at https://www.sustainableshale.org/performance-standards/

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