PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Every day, trucks offload natural gas drilling wastewater at the McKeesport Water Authority treatment plant.

Once treated inside, the cleaner water is discharged into the Monongahela River. Come May 19, that will stop.

“We are calling on all Marcellus drilling operators to cease delivering wastewater to these 15 publicly-owned treatment works,” Katy Gresh, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said.

Salty substances from the drilling waste called bromides reached dangerous levels in the Mon two years ago.

The Allegheny River, the drinking supply for the city of Pittsburgh and other municipalities, had been relatively bromide-free until recently.

“We never saw any indication in the Allegheny and we thought, ‘Lucky us,’ but then this fall that changed,” said Stanley States of Pittsburgh Water Authority.

High levels of bromides were discovered in the intake pipes at the Pittsburgh treatment plant and now testing has revealed that at least a portion is coming from plants that treat and discharge drilling waste. This combined with research by Carnegie Mellon Professor Jeanne VanBreisen resulted in Governor Corbett’s demand for treatment to stop.

“I’m very happy too see that there is action being taken in response to our research,” VanBreisen said.

But already, about 70 percent of the drilling water is being treated in plants like one in New Stanton and then used again in the drilling process and never discharged into the waterways. The water comes in black and dirty and is cleaned except for a heavy salt and bromide content. The water is then recycled in a so-called closed system.

Matt Pitzarella, of Range Resources, says his company is already recycling all of its drilling water and believes the rest of the industry can do the same.

“There is no reason that the Marcellus Shale industry should be discharging bromide into surface waters in Pennsylvania,” he said.

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Bromides Found In Allegheny River

PA Department Of Environmental Protection
Range Resources

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