The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has put forward a proposition to legislate against fracking wastewater being treated in publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities. The ban would reinforce the prohibition of a practice abandoned by oil and gas companies back in 2011.
In justification of its decision, the EPA said that wastewater discharged during unconventional oil and gas exploration often contains high concentrations of salt and lesser amounts of chemicals, metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment and are not suitable for treatment by public sewage treatment plants.
The ban would predominantly target shale operations and would not apply to conventional oil and gas exploration as well as commercial wastewater plants that treat and discharge fluids to waterways, which are regulated separately.
The goal of the rule is to “ensure that such current industry best practice is maintained over time,” the agency said, admitting that in its research the EPA did not find any public treatment plant in any state that is accepting unconventional oil and gas wastewater directly from an operator. Instead, companies are relying on recycling and reuse, commercial treatment plants or deep disposal wells to handle their waste fluids.
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