U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bans fracking wastewater from sewage plants

Water treatment plant
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Public sewage plants are unfit to handle toxic and radioactive wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing operations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled last week. This puts into law the instruction issued by Governor Tom Corbett back in 2011, when he ordered drilling companies to stop taking that water to treatment plants.

“We are calling on all Marcellus drilling operators to cease delivering water to (…) publicly-owned treatment works and centralised treatment works,” Kathy Gresh, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said at the time.

One of the problems with wastewater from fracking operations is the presence of bromide. When combined with chlorine in a drinking water treatment plant, it can form a dangerous disinfectant byproduct.

“When disinfection byproducts enter our drinking water and we consume them over a long time period, they’ve been associated with a particular form of cancer, bladder cancer, and with a particular set of negative reproductive outcomes in terms of miscarriages and still births,” Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jeanne VanBreisen said.

The EPA has reached its decision on wastewater treatment following comments from public health advocates along with 30,000 individuals.

“Allowing toxic, radioactive wastewater to be treated at the same place as dirty bathwater defies all logic,” Rachel Richardson, Stop Drilling Program director for Environment America, said. “This is a commonsense step to help protect our water and our health from the dangers of fracking.”

Disposing of superfluous water generated by hydraulic fracturing operations still poses a problem for operators.

“Fracking wastewater is a big problem for which there is simply no adequate solution,” Richardson said. “We applaud EPA for taking this step to protect families on the frontlines of fracking. To fully protect our drinking water and the health of our families, we need to ban this practice altogether and transition to 100 percent clean energy.”

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