The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent each day of the past three years dumping up to 500,000 gallons of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River.
Instead, the plant has not discharged a drop of waste into the river—a drinking water source for 350,000 people. And under a new permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the plant will not be allowed to discharge anything, unless it proves it can comply with the law and treat all of the contaminants in fracking wastewater.
The DEP had initially tried to fast-track the planned wastewater plant in Masontown, PA, quietly allowing Shallenberger Construction Inc. to dump inadequately treated fracking wastewater directly into the Monongahela River until the company built all of the necessary treatment facilities at the plant.
“When fracking began in western Pennsylvania, the gas industry treated our rivers as a convenient place to dispose of their waste,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA state director for Clean Water Action. “We knew we had to act and we are glad to see that this agreement upholds the protection for our drinking water that every Pennsylvanian expects and deserves.”
In 2008, pollution levels spiked so high in a 70-mile stretch of the Monongahela River that the entire city of Pittsburgh was urged to drink bottled water. The DEP acknowledged that the problem was due in large part to untreated fracking wastewater being discharged from sewage treatment plants. The Shallenberger plant would have added to the contamination.
But Clean Water Action discovered the backroom deal and challenged the illegal arrangement, which violated state and federal laws protecting drinking water. With the help of the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, DEP was forced to terminate its backroom deal with the plant owners and adopt a new pollution permit that complied with the law.
The groups expect today’s settlement will help in the fights to protect other water bodies in the state from natural gas drilling wastewater.
“Until we went to court, the state was refusing to enforce basic standards for industrial wastewater treatment plants accepting fracking wastes,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg. “This lawsuit helped to change the dynamic in Pennsylvania—away from dumping waste into clean streams and toward policies that encourage recycling.
"Still, we have a long way to go before the industry is held fully accountable for its pollution,” concluded Goldberg.
DEP first issued an unlawfully lenient discharge permit to Shallenberger in September 2008. After pollution in the Monongahela River exceeded water quality standards, the state entered into negotiations with Shallenberger to amend the permit. DEP gave the company more than three years from the end of August 2009 to meet new limits, however, and even those were inadequate.
The negotiations were conducted behind closed doors, and the deal was never subject to public notice or review. Earthjustice challenged the permit on behalf of Clean Water Action, resulting in an amended draft permit in 2011. The amended draft permit in 2011 was also subject to toothless deadlines and other deficiencies. A coalition of groups across the state objected and the state eventually amended the permit to comply with the law, resulting in today’s settlement.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING WASTEWATER page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.
Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.
By Sabrina Kessler
Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.
By Alex Robinson
Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.
The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.
Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.