Posts Tagged ‘wastewater treatment’

Water co. requests say in permits

Pa. American Water Co. wants state government to offer water supply protection.

By Steve
Staff Writer

Officials with the water company that owns two Back Mountain reservoirs want to see state action to better protect those drinking water sources from contamination related to natural gas drilling.

They also want the opportunity to have input into the permitting process for natural gas wells located near those reservoirs.

Terry Maenza, spokesman for Pennsylvania American Water Co., said there is no requirement that natural gas companies or any state agency notify water suppliers when well-drilling permit applications for land near water supplies are submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We would like to see those laws and regulations revised so we can be notified and have a chance to express any comments or concerns while a permit is under review,” Maenza said.

Maenza’s comments follow the revelation on Monday that at least one property on the shore of the Huntsville Reservoir in Lehman Township, and an adjacent property, have been leased to EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., which will begin exploratory drilling operations at a well in Fairmount Township in July and at a second in Lake Township in late summer or early fall.

Paul Siegel, who owns the three acres on the Huntsville shore, said on Monday there is language in his lease that allows him and his wife, Janet, to restrict any surface drilling on his land but would allow EnCana to drill horizontally underneath his property.

The couple’s son and daughter-in-law, Christopher and Maureen, own 10.88 acres bordered by Christopher’s parents’ land on the east and by Huntsville-Idetown Road on the west that is also leased to EnCana.

Maenza said there is a 500-foot buffer between other properties and the high-water point of the Huntsville and Ceasetown reservoirs in most areas, but some parcels of land were “grandfathered in” without buffers when Pennsylvania American bought the water system from PGW in 1996.

As far as allowing a gas company to drill underneath the reservoirs, Maenza said it “would depend on what the driller was proposing and who owns the land. I’m not sure how far (down) our rights extend under the reservoirs,” he said.

Maenza said Pennsylvania American started water sampling and visual creek inspections about two weeks ago “so we can get some baseline data before the drilling begins.”

Huntsville Reservoir provides water for about 30,000 people living in Dallas, Kingston Township., Swoyersville, Wyoming and West Wyoming. Ceasetown Reservoir provides water to about 70,000 people in Ashley, Courtdale, Edwardsville, Larksville, Nanticoke, Plymouth, Pringle, Shickshinny, the townships of Conyngham, Hanover, Hunlock, Newport and Plymouth, and portions of the city of Wilkes-Barre.

Wyoming Mayor Robert Boyer said he’d like to learn more about the drilling process, given that his town receives water from the Huntsville Reservoir.

“There is a potential for environmental concerns. If we drill for oil a mile under the ocean floor and we don’t have a plan in place to deal with a catastrophic event like we had off the Gulf Coast, it makes sense that we want to have environmental protections in place before we start drilling here. Don’t put the cart before the horse,” Boyd said.

Maenza noted that state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, is working on legislation to protect water sources.

In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling and six months afterward – at three different depths.

A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs.

A third bill would require DEP to ensure that the operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.

Jennifer Wilson, Baker’s chief of staff, said specifics on the proposed bills, such as minimum distances from aquifers, are still being worked out.

Although EnCana has obtained a drilling permit for a site in Lehman Township about midway between Harveys Lake and Huntsville Reservoir, Wendy Wiedenbeck, public and community relations adviser for EnCana, said the company has not yet put together a full development program for drilling in Luzerne County should production at wells in Fairmount and Lake townships prove successful.

She did say the company is starting to look at additional potential drilling locations in the county.

As for company policies on proximity of drilling to water resources, she said the company naturally abides by the minimum setbacks set by states. But in considering additional setback distances, she said each potential drill location is unique and is assessed individually.

“We would take the same thoughtful, measured approach to any future operations as we have with our first two wells,” Wiedenbeck said.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader

Baker proposes bills on gas drilling, drinking water

Pa. senator says protection needed to ensure drilling doesn’t contaminate water.

By Steve
Staff Writer

The state senator representing the Back Mountain is proposing a series of bills to protect drinking water sources from contamination associated with natural gas drilling.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, said on Monday that the chances of water contamination grow as drilling into the Marcellus Shale increases in Pennsylvania, and the proposed bills are in response to citizen and community concerns about the safety of water resources.

“Prevention and protection are preferable to crisis management and emergency response,” Baker said.

EnCana Oil & Gas plans to drill two natural gas wells in the Back Mountain – one each in Lehman and Lake townships – and a third in the Red Rock area in Fairmount Township, not far from Ricketts Glen State Park.

The well site in Lehman Township is less than two miles from the Huntsville Reservoir.

Although there are proposed water protection regulations moving through the approval process, Baker said state law has “more force.”

And as drilling proceeds on a larger scale, “area residents want answers that show responsibility being assured, rather than risks being assumed,” Baker said.

“Reasonable environmental protections will not discourage the development of this industry; they will help to make sure that unreasonable costs are not imposed on local communities and homeowners,” she said.

In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling, and six months afterwards – at three different depths.

A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs.

A third bill would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.

Baker said some of the costs would be borne by the gas companies.

Oversight costs could be paid for through a severance tax, which is expected to be debated in the coming weeks.

She reiterated her opposition to any severance tax plan that would devote the revenue generated to filling a hole in the state budget rather than providing for community protection in drilling areas.

“The environmental and economic catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the crucial nature of taking all reasonable precautions and for being prepared for dealing with extreme situations when things go horribly wrong,” Baker said.

Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7311.

Copyright: Times Leader

Lawmakers seeking public input on gas drilling

Feedback sought on impact on communities and environment as industry explores Marcellus Shale.

By Rory
Staff Writer

With questions, concerns and accusations increasing with the rise of drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, state legislators and officials have been on the road to hear from voters and explain what they’re doing in Harrisburg.

If you go

The informational meetings are being held today at the Benton Area High School, 400 Park St., Benton. Issues involving Luzerne County municipalities, including Fairmount and Lehman townships, will be discussed at 6 p.m., Ross Township and Columbia County north of Routes 254 and 239, at 7:15 p.m. and the county below those roads, at 8:30 p.m.

A Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee public hearing last week in Bradford County heard about renters being priced out of their apartments by rig workers.

Later that day at a League of Women Voters forum in Scranton, a state Department of Environmental Protection official addressed concerns about a lack of oversight.

State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, was involved in a Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hearing on drilling wastewater treatment issues on Wednesday in Harrisburg.

State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, joins the road warriors tonight in Benton, where the Columbia County Land Owners Coalition is hosting informational meetings. Along with Boback will be state Reps. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming and David Millard, R-Columbia, for the three meetings, which are organized geographically.

Boback is “just going to be there to let homeowners know what’s being done in Harrisburg to address their concerns,” spokeswoman Nicole Wamsley said.

Depending on the crowd, the legislators could face either support or hostility about the issue. Anti-drilling groups have coalesced in the region and have organized attempts to voice their concerns at everything from rallies to zoning board hearings.

While drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale holds the tantalizing promise of economic benefits and jobs for decades, it also raises a variety of environmental issues, most notably the quality and availability of water.

Add to that concerns such as the practice of “forced pooling.” In theory, it’s designed to minimize surface disturbances by evenly spacing well pads over an entire drilling area and protect landowners from having their gas siphoned off without compensation.

In practice, it forces landowners into leases whether they want one or not.

Legal in New York, it’s being addressed in Harrisburg. Boback had supported a bill based on the land-conservation premise, but recently retracted it “when the questions arose … based on discussions with research staff” regarding its practical application, Wamsley said.

Copyright: Times Leader

WVSA may treat wastewater from gas-drilling

Authority soliciting proposals now to raise money for upgraded pollution controls.

By Rory
Staff Writer

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is investigating the feasibility of treating wastewater created from natural-gas drilling.

It hopes to offset some cost increases the authority will soon incur to make pollution-reducing renovations.

The authority published a request for proposals earlier this week, seeking bidders who could supply at least 500,000 gallons of wastewater daily for at least three years and pay at least 5.5 cents per gallon. Using both minimums, that would create daily revenue of $27,500.

Drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale creates millions of gallons of wastewater that must be treated.

“The good part of that is that, instead of paying for fresh water from the Susquehanna (River), we would pre-treat this and they would reuse that to fracture new wells,” said Fred DeSanto, the authority’s executive director. “We know drilling’s going on; we are a wastewater treatment facility. That’s our business to treat it. We just don’t want time to go by as there’s water to treat.”

That means that, for now, the plant is seeking a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection to treat up to 150,000 gallons per day in its sewage stream. The company, however, is reserving the right to inspect for pollutants in incoming drilling wastewater.

It requires pre-testing for “total dissolved solids” and “suspended solids” – generally a measure of the amount of minerals and chemicals in the water – and reserves the right to deny it.

DeSanto said that protects the authority’s equipment, which would “probably” be damaged by heavy loads of solids.

All testing and transportation costs would be paid by the drilling company, which also must carry $2 million in liability insurance, indemnify the authority from all risks associated with hauling the waste and provide a “blanket statement” that it isn’t “hazardous waste.”

The long-term goal is to build a million-gallon-per-day, closed-loop facility to “pre-treat” the water enough that it could be reused in industrial capacities and resell it to the companies that brought it in.In its bid request, the authority is looking to get at least half a cent per gallon for that water. That water would never touch the sewer operation or be discharged into the river.

“It’s the preferred method of disposal by DEP,” said John Minora, the president PA NE Aqua Resources, which is consulting on the project. “We’re left with a sludge cake that gets either landfilled or incinerated. … The water that’s left, it looks a little milky because it’s high in salt.”

That waste could then be mixed with effluent from the plant’s sewer operation to reduce solids levels, thus preventing more discharges to the river, he said. As pollution discharge credits, which would set a limit for how much facilities can discharge, become a reality, the reduced discharges could provide more revenue.

“I think the people who are environmental should be very happy about that,” Minora said. “Recycle and reuse, I don’t think it has to be an us-against-them” situation.

The revenue would go toward the millions the authority will have to spend to upgrade its system for upcoming requirements to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and to fix stormwater overflows that currently spill untreated sewage into the river whenever it rains heavily.

Potential revenues are “unknown right now because we don’t exactly what the treatment cost is going to be,” DeSanto said. “We feel that there’s enough there that we could make a profit to help our operating budget in the future, help our ratepayers.”

Bids are due by Nov. 16.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

No gas well permits issued for Luzerne County

But experts say that doesn’t mean drillers won’t eventually explore here.

None of the 73 permits the state Department of Environmental Protection issued Wednesday for natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale was in Luzerne County.

That doesn’t necessarily mean drillers aren’t interested in looking for gas here, experts say. But a combination of factors may slow activity compared to other parts of the state.

“I’m sure it’s still in the mix,” said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association. “The work in trying to explore and analyze for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale in the region … is only beginning in the northeast” region of Pennsylvania.

Energy companies and geologists have estimated for decades that billions of dollars worth of natural gas is locked in a layer of rock called Marcellus Shale that runs about a mile underground from upstate New York down to Virginia, including through the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Only recently have technological advances and higher energy prices made extracting the gas financially feasible.

Western Pennsylvania has much more drilling infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment facilities, than this region, Rhoads said, which explains why the majority of the permits issued on Wednesday were for western counties.

He also attributed the companies’ deliberate pace to budgetary constraints, a lack of drilling rigs and an incomplete grasp of the geology.

“It takes a lot of time and money to understand what lies more than a mile underground,” he said. “These companies are investing a lot … to make sure they get it right.”

While some properties have been leased in the northwestern section of Luzerne County, Mark Carmon, regional DEP spokesman, said there are no drilling permits in the county. He was unaware of any awaiting approval, either, but cautioned that doesn’t mean county landowners have missed the windfall.

All the assurances don’t make the waiting any more palatable for landowners.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Jack Zucosky, whose Luzerne County Landowners group is looking to get its more than 6,000 acres leased. “We’ve been close a few times with a few companies, but nothing definite yet.”

He’s confident Luzerne County property will get leased, but not until next year at the earliest.

“I really think what’s going on here is natural gas (prices) dropped a lot, and these companies are having cash flow problems,” he said. “It’s a waiting game right now.”

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Groups eye hauling well wastewater

In addition to anticipated jobs and profits from natural-gas drilling, water usage should increase as regional operations get under way.

That could mean more income for water haulers and sanitary authorities.

Drilling companies have been ramping up activities because an underground rock layer known as Marcellus Shale is expected to contain billions of dollars in natural gas deposits.

Each well-drilling operation could require up to 1 million gallons of water. While the water can be reused, it eventually must be disposed of at a treatment facility.

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority hasn’t accepted any well-drilling wastewater, but it is interested.

“If it’s not hazardous to our plant, and if DEP approves us as a disposal site, we would consider it,” executive director Fred DeSanto said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently sent a letter to sanitary authorities advising them that wastewater from the drilling can be harmful to certain treatment systems and cause them to violate their discharge permits. The water must be tested and approved by DEP.

Such contracts could be lucrative, but have potential problems. WVSA, the major wastewater treatment facility in Luzerne County, charges 3.5 cents per gallon for treatment of up to 2 million gallons and 3 cents for quantities beyond that.

That could help offset the estimated $6 million in upgrades the authority said it needs to meet Chesapeake Bay watershed agreement discharge standards.

That quick influx, however, creates a problem.

Sandy Bartosiewicz, WVSA’s financial and budget officer, said the authority has never been in a situation where it accepted “that amount of volume at one time.”

It will also have an impact on wastewater haulers.

“The volume of the material is significant,” said Chris Ravenscroft, president of Honesdale-based Koberlein Environmental Services. “I don’t think there’s any one company out there that has the capacity for the volume. … So I think there’s a large volume of work that will be generated.”

He said his company is actively seeking energy companies that are looking for haulers and treatment facilities. Gas companies are investigating drilling possibilities through the Marcellus region, which stretches from upstate New York through northern and western Pennsylvania, including the upper fringe of Luzerne County, and down into Virginia. Several wells have been drilled in this region, according to DEP spokesman Mark Carmon.

Cabot Oil & Gas Co. announced recently a well in Susquehanna County became its first to generate income.

Copyright: Times Leader