The head of a local environmental group concerned about the dangers of natural gas drilling was dismayed but not totally surprised by an Associated Press report on the disposal of wastewater from gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
The AP found, among other startling revelations, that the state could not account for the disposal of about one-fifth of the 6 million barrels of wastewater produced over a 12-month period.
The highly salty water, which contains metals such as barium and strontium, is disposed of in other states by injecting it in shafts deep underground. But Pennsylvania allows it to be partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water, the AP reported.
“Actually, I have been complaining about the lack of oversight in the wastewater treatment problem involved in the Marcellus drilling that has been going on since the inception of this industry starting over seven years ago in Pennsylvania,” Dr. Thomas Jiunta, president of the GDAC, said in an e-mail after reading the story.
Jiunta said there should be a moratorium on natural gas drilling in the state until there is a reliable system in place that would require drillers to provide verifiable tracking data for each gallon of flowback water as well as each gallon of fresh water withdrawn from area resources for drilling purposes.
The moratorium should be lifted only after an environmental impact study can be done on what will happen when treated water is released into an ecosystem, Jiunta said.
“Until this is instituted, then Pennsylvanians cannot be assured that they are drinking clean, healthy water. This is guaranteed under our state constitution,” he said.
Not only is this flowback high in salinity and treated inadequately before release into streams and rivers, it contains heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, barium, strontium and cadmium, radioactive substances such as radium 226, and a “myriad of additives that are proven carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors by Dr. Theo Coburn from the Endocrine Exchange.”
“We are deluding ourselves into thinking that we can just dilute this wastewater at our treatment plants until a certain standard for (total dissolved solids) is allowed and then dump it when we fail to consider the cumulative impacts downstream and underground to all of our fresh drinking water supplies,” Jiunta said.