Gas Bubbling from the Susquehanna River

Gas Bubbling from River at Sugar Run – by David Keeler – 9/2/2010

Click here for video clip

DEP Issues Industrial Wastewater Discharge Permit to Williamsport’s TerrAqua Resource Management

First New Permit for Treating Drilling Wastewater to Be Issued in West Branch Susquehanna River Watershed.

WILLIAMSPORT — The Department of Environmental Protection today issued a system industrial wastewater discharge permit to TerrAqua Resource Management LLC of Williamsport that allows the company to treat and discharge 400,000 gallons per day of gas well drilling wastewater.

“This is the first new permit issued in the West Branch Susquehanna River watershed for treating gas well drilling wastewater,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell. “The monitoring requirements and stringent limits on total dissolved solids, chlorides and sulfates in this permit will protect the water quality of the West Branch Susquehanna River.”

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit requires TerrAqua to meet the proposed new regulatory standards of 500 parts per million for total dissolved solids and 250 parts per million for chlorides and sulfates. These standards will be required statewide effective Jan. 1, 2011.

TerrAqua has indicated that it will pursue a thermal treatment process capable of reducing total dissolved solid levels to less than 500 parts per million at all times.

The discharge permit also requires TerrAqua to monitor for radioactivity, a large number of metals, including barium, strontium, iron, manganese and aluminum, as well as organics such as toluene, benzene, phenols, ethylene glycol and surfactants.

The company’s application for the permit, which was submitted in August 2008, went through an extensive public participation process. More than 150 people attended a DEP public meeting held in July 2009 to discuss the permit and ask questions.

“The department received nearly 200 public comments regarding this permit application and have responded to and addressed all relevant questions and concerns raised in those comments,” Yowell said.




TerrAqua now must submit a water quality management permit application to DEP for the treatment plant’s design and technology. This permit is required to construct and operate the plant.

The company has also applied for a general permit from DEP’s waste management program to process, recycle and reuse this wastewater for subsequent fracking operations.

The DEP Northcentral Regional Office has nine additional permit applications under review for proposed gas well drilling wastewater treatment plants in Bradford, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Lycoming, and Tioga counties. Proposed discharge points include the Susquehanna, Chemung, and Tioga rivers as well as several streams.

For more information, call 570-327-3659 or visit

RDA info and meeting places/times

Stop the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from caving in to mining and gas industry pressure. These industries would like to transfer the water quality of the Susquehanna River to their bottom line by using it as an inexpensive dump for their salt and chemically laden waste water.

Attend the hearing on Wednesday 16th at 5:00, DEP’s office in the Old Grit Building at 3rd and William Street, Williamsport. Your attendance will support DEP’s own research which has lead to a good proposed strategy for new TDS discharges. Without public support, DEP may be forced to retreat from its own recommendations.
Last April DEP published a strategy to protect Pennsylvania Rivers from becoming too saline by greatly limiting the amount of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in NEW discharges into the rivers.
This strategy came after critical conditions appeared in the Monongahela River Basin due to mining and gas industry discharges. Gas drilling waste water, which is extraordinarily high in TDS, put the already stressed river over the limit for potable water withdraw.  Bromines from gas industry waste water react with disinfectants used in water plants to produce carcinogenic secondary chemicals.  The result was a drinking water health advisory issued to thousands of water users.
This September, forty three miles of Dunkard Creek, which stitches back and forth across the boarders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, experienced a massive fish kill. The culprit, which wiped out almost all animal life in the stream, was toxins produced by an invasive algae which can only thrive in brackish water.
Below are some excerpts from DEP’s preamble to the hearing. Link to complete document here.

“Total dissolved solids (TDS) is comprised of inorganic salts, organic matter and other dissolved materials in water.”

“TDS causes toxicity to water bodies through increases in salinity, changes in the ionic composition of the water, and toxicity of individual ions.”

“Several studies on the potential impacts to aquatic life from these large TDS discharges were also conducted on major tributaries flowing into the Monongahela River in Greene County, PA. Each of these studies documents the adverse effects of discharges of TDS, sulfates and chlorides on the aquatic communities in these receiving streams. The former concludes that there is a high abundance of halophilic (salt-loving) organisms downstream from the discharges of TDS and chlorides and a clear transition of fresh water organisms to brackish water organisms in the receiving stream from points above the discharge to points below. It is evident from this study that increases in salinity have caused a shift in biotic communities.

The Monongahela River Watershed is being adversely impacted by TDS discharges and many points in the watershed are already impaired, with TDS, sulfates and chlorides as the cause.

In addition, watershed analyses conducted by the Department (DEP) of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Moshannon River Watersheds have documented that they are also severely limited in the capacity to assimilate new loads of TDS and sulfates.”

You are needed. Attend the hearing to support DEP’s proposed strategy, based on good science, for protecting Pennsylvania’s waterway.
To speak at the hearing call 717-787-4526 to register.

J. Public Hearings

The Board will hold four public hearings for the purpose of accepting comments on this proposal. The hearings will be held at 5 p.m. on the following dates:

December 14, 2009
5 p.m.
Cranberry Township Municipal  Building
2525 Rochester Road
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-6499
December 15, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental  Protection
Cambria District Office
286 Industrial Park Road
Ebensburg, PA 15931
December 16, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental Protection
Northcentral Regional Office
Goddard Conference Room
208 West Third Street,
Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701-6448
December 17, 2009
5 p.m.
Lehigh County Government Center
17 S. 7th Street
Allentown, PA 18101
responsible drilling alliance

Use your feet…

Here is an email from the Responsible Drilling Alliance out of Williamsport, PA. please follow the link at the end of the message for more info.

Use your feet to protect our rivers.

Have your feet take you to the hearing in Williamsport on December 16th to support, with your presence, the proposed new rule for Total Dissolved Solids for gas industry wastewater.  Gas drilling waste water is extremely high in TDS.  Under current rules they are allowed to discharge this TDS content directly into the river.  The new proposed rules would greatly limit new TDS discharges.

Not surprisingly these new proposed rules have come under quite a bit of pressure from a number of industries not just the gas drillers.  It is important to note that these new rules will not apply to existing water discharges so they will not put anyone out of business. Only new discharges or large modifications to existing plants will come under them.

This September, more than forty miles Dunkard Creek in western PA was cleared of almost all its fish and other aquatic animal life by the toxins of an invasive algae.  Golden Algae, the culprit,  needed high levels of TDS’s to thrive. Last summer, even before the fish kill,  the Monongahela  River exceeded the TDS standard for potable water intake and its bromide content level required a health advisory to be issued.

Strong public support is needed to counteract industry’s efforts to lower the proposed standards.    We all need to show up to the hearing and speak or send in written comments.  Instructions on how at bottom of this email.

December 16, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental  Protection
Northcentral Regional Office
Goddard Conference Room
208 West Third Street,
Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701-6448

Clean Water in PA seems harder and harder to come by

Published: October 31, 2009 by

Gutting DEP, aging Clean Water Act all wet

A report by the environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment illustrates the folly of state lawmakers eviscerating the Department of Environmental Protection and a need for Congress to reinvigorate the Clean Water Act of 1972.

PennEnvironment analyzed the federal Toxic Release Inventory for 2007 and found that industries released 2.6 million pounds of pollutants into the Susquehanna River that year. That’s more than 25 percent of the 10 million pounds of industrial pollutants that were released into waterways statewide in 2007, a year in which Pennsylvania was among the top five states in total volume.

The report puts a disturbing exclamation point on the new state budget, which reduces the budget for the Department of Environmental Protection by about a third.

And the study is an incomplete picture because it deals with “point source” discharges alone, that is, known quantifiable discharges from known sources. It does not catalogue non-point source pollution such as fertilizer and animal waste the enter waterways from farms.

Nor does the report deal with so-called “legacy” pollution – toxic matter deposited in the river for more than a century by mines and other industries that no longer exist.

The report is drawn from existing data. It should serve as a reminder to Harrisburg and Washington that water pollution remains an enormous problem.

State lawmakers and regulators should ensure that clean water enforcement remains a priority despite the hatchet that the Legislature took to the DEP. Perhaps lawmakers can stop hoarding their own $200 million surplus and dedicate some of it to the cause of clean water.

Congress should proceed with a revision of the Clean Water Act that sets higher standards, includes all streams and wetlands under regulation, and limits the discharge non-point source pollution along with industrial toxins.


Here is a link to the 2008 Bureau of Water annual report.

And here is a link to a consumer confidence report by United Water for 2008.

Neither of these reports has direct information regarding the gas industry but there is some good information about water in PA and where it comes from, especially if you do not live in a rural area. Just some FYI as well as a few eye openers here and there that we rarely think about, yet drink every day. There are also some interesting findings on bottled water in PA especially in places like State College. Voices of Central PA, a public newspaper out of Centre County, is currently working on some research regarding this. Check out their website for details although the articles may not be up on the web yet.

You Are Cordially Invited to a Workshop…

Susquehanna River Basin Commission
a water management agency serving the Susquehanna River Watershed
You Are Cordially Invited to a Workshop
October 29, 2009 – Hold the Date

A Partnership for Water Quality Monitoring
To Encourage and Advance Real-Time Monitoring of Susquehanna Basin Streams
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has developed a proposal to implement
a network designed to remotely monitor water quality conditions to maintain and protect
smaller rivers and streams in select portions of the Susquehanna watershed. With the demand
for water from smaller rivers and streams on the increase – most notably from the natural gas
industry – it is important to routinely monitor water quality conditions to verify whether or not
water quality impacts are occurring. The proposed network would provide real-time data that
will keep management and conservation agencies informed and able to respond more rapidly if
pollution events occur. It will also help local public water suppliers, watershed groups, and
communities to stay informed about water quality conditions in local streams.
SRBC is sponsoring this workshop to encourage governmental and non-governmental interests
to join as partners in this effort. At the workshop, SRBC will explain the proposed network and
its known benefits, seek input and recommendations, and identify interested partners.
DATE: October 29, 2009
TIME: 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Workshop Sessions (lunch provided)
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Optional Tour of Natural Gas Drilling Site
LOCATION: Holiday Inn, 100 Pine Street, Williamsport, Pa.
RSVP: By: October 15, 2009

To: Ms. Ava Stoops, Administrative Specialist, SRBC
Phone: (717) 238-0423 ext 302 or Email:
When responding, please provide your Name, Title, Affiliation,
Mailing Address, Phone, Fax, Email

A special thank you to the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
( for funding this workshop.

Residents: Keep drilling discharge out

An article from the Times Leader talks about local residents being opposed to the wastewater treatment facility on the Susquehanna.

By Rory Sweeney

TUNKHANNOCK – Residents attending a public hearing Tuesday were decidedly unconvinced that a purposed facility to treat gas-drilling wastes would protect the Susquehanna River.

“I do believe their intentions are good in that, being local, they’ll do the best job they can,” said Tunkhannock resident Scott Davis. But he questioned where the companies and landowners profiting off the drilling were.

“I don’t see those folks here … and I don’t understand that. … There’s just something wrong about this where the folks who are making so much are just dumping this on the rest of us,” Davis said.

Davis was applauded along with others who voiced the frustration many felt.

Natural-gas companies are spending millions throughout the state to drill gas wells in the Marcellus Shale, a layer of natural gas-laden rock about a mile underground that stretches from New York to Virginia and centers on northern Pennsylvania.

But the economic development comes at an environmental cost that some residents are unwilling to accept, such as contamination to water that’s forced underground to crack the shale and release the gas.

The process is called hydraulic fracturing, and the fluid used, while mostly water, contains hazardous chemicals and lots of salt.

North Branch Processing LLC hopes to build a plant near Skyhaven Airport to clean the “frac” water and discharge it into the river. The hearing, called by the state Department of Environmental Protection, was on a permit for that discharge.

Residents said the water should be reused for “fracing” rather than put into the river.

“I guess you can tell we love the Susquehanna River,” said Larry Darby, a Pittston resident with a family home in Falls.

North Branch does too, said Bill Wilson, one of the company’s principal members and a Mehoopany native. “We’re local residents. This area did not retain its natural beauty by accident,” he said. It’s protected by locals who oversee changes to it, he said.

Wilson said he fishes downstream of the site where the water would be discharged. “I plan on continuing that, as do my son and grandson,” he said.

Charlie Gay, who manages the airport, lives nearby and is another North Branch principal, said gas drilling is “here, but we have some options with the water and to make sure it’s done right.”

“This way, we have a little control,” he said.

“If they’re going to discharge it into the Susquehanna River, which people fish in, which people play in, it should be clean enough to drink,” said George Turner, a local geologist with experience handling contaminated water. “If they can’t clean it up that much, then reuse it as frac water.”

Peter Petokas, a Lycoming College aquatic stream ecologist, said that with any discharge, “water quality in the North Branch can only worsen.”

Two Days Remaining….

Please make sure your voice is heard by Wednesday! This is a very well written letter by Don Williams and I encourage you all to write your own or contact me for a template you can use.

At midnight on Wednesday, October 7th, the period for public comment on a permit request to dump treated gas well waste water into the Susquehanna River will close. Last week, about 60 residents gathered at the local DEP office to speak out against this permit. It is my sincere hope that you might also be willing to send an email to DEP expressing your concern over this planned toxic waste discharge into the river. Your message need not be long. Two or three sentences are sufficient. It is necessary to include your full name and mailing address in the text of the message. Please state clearly that you are opposed to allowing TerrAqua to dump treated water into the river. Addresses and a sample message appears at the bottom of this FreshMail.

At last week’s public hearing, those in attendance spontaneously broke into applause at the close of Don Williams’ prepared statement. Perhaps his views (below, in italic) will give you some food for thought as to what you might say to DEP officials.

Gas well drilling is here to stay. It is my belief that the industry’s presence here is a greater threat to public health than anything I have ever seen in my lifetime. All the organic food and vitamins in the world cannot counter balance the toxins we will all be exposed to. If you live in Pennsylvania, you will be impacted. Please be willing to stay informed and take action whenever the opportunity arises. Begin now. Thank you.

Barb Jarmoska

Good evening. I’m Don Williams of Harleysville, PA, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight. I am a native and citizen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and my ongoing education includes a bachelor’s degree in earth and environmental sciences from Wilkes College. In 2005, I partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and American Rivers to name the Susquehanna River as the most endangered river in the nation. It appears we may be soon approaching that point again.

As an environmentalist who witnessed and participated in the first earth day, I continue to marvel at the infinite wisdom of Rachel Carson’s choice of three simple words – web of life – to describe all of nature. Almost 40 year after the first earth day – we are now at a point where this commonwealth’s commitment to protecting the environment is – in truth – heading toward where it was 40 years prior to 1970. In the present day Marcellus Shale frenzy, we are once again striking a Faustian bargain at the expense of our natural resources, jeopardizing the quality of our land and our waters in exchange for the false promise of jobs and fleeting economic prosperity for a limited few.

A detailed DEP study done earlier this year concluded that about 980,000 pounds per day of assimilative capacity remains for total dissolved solids on the West Branch. TerrAqua’s draft discharge permit allows between 54,412 and 522,245 pounds per day of total dissolved solids to be discharged to the river.

Let’s crunch these numbers a little further. This equates to 15.7 million pounds of solids – containing far too many unknowns – being dumped into the west branch of the Susquehanna every month. That’s about 95 tons per year. And that’s from one treatment plant. If we continue to accept frackwater in a growing number of new treatment plants on the north branch as well, what will our watershed, and our waters, look like next year…or 5 years from now, and what will we leave as our legacy for future generations?  Where is the tipping point of assimilative capacity? I certainly don’t know, however, having studied numerous detailed environmental modeling failures over the past three decades, I truly do not believe the DEP knows either.

In May 1971, just about one year after the first earth day, the following amendment was added to the Constitution of this commonwealth:

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

Webster’s defines pure as: “unmixed with any other matter” and conserve as: “avoid wasteful or destructive use of”. So far, from my perspective, it appears that many of our state and federal agencies have differing views on exactly what these words mean.

I am fully opposed to the further degradation of the Susquehanna River by any action or from any source. Further, until there is a complete disclosure of any and all chemicals used in the horizontal hydro fracturing process, I am requesting that any action on any/all frackwater treatment plant applications be suspended indefinitely.

As a citizen of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and per our Constitution, I believe these are our lands these are our waters. What is happening throughout the Susquehanna and Delaware and Ohio watersheds today, and how we react to it, will be our legacy to those generations yet to come. I believe that the “state of independence” is much, much more than a tourism slogan. From Dimock to Dunkard Creek, from Lake Otsego to the Chesapeake Bay, and from Harrisburg to Washington, we must do all that is necessary to ensure our gift to the future includes cleaner waters, cleaner air, and a Penn’s Woods we will be proud to leave behind. Thank you.

Is Wasteater Discharge into the Susquehanna River Possible?

Opposition expressed to wastewater treatment facility


Nearly all those who testified Wednesday during a public hearing regarding a proposed gas drilling wastewater treatment facility spoke in opposition.

The hearing, held at the northcentral regional office of the state Department of Environmental Protection, was held to gather public testimony regarding an application by TerrAqua Resource Management of Williamsport for a permit to discharge treated gas drilling wastewater into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

The company, a subsidiary of Larson Design Group, wants to treat and discharge up to 400,000 gallons per day of gas drilling wastewater into the river.

However, many in attendance had concerns regarding the impact the treated water will have on the river, including its ecosystem and the people who use it as a source of drinking water.

Others expressed concerns about how gas exploration will impact the entire state.

Fairfield Township resident Anne Harris Katz, a scientist, asked how the DEP will make sure treated water does not contains harmful toxins when it is discharged into the river.

Katz questioned the department’s ability to monitor those toxins and determine their impacts once they enter the watershed.

She also questioned the agency’s role in the Marcellus Shale Wastewater Partnership, which she said was comprised of the DEP and industry organization the Marcellus Shale Committee. Katz said the partnership should contain more stakeholders, such as local residents, scientists, and environmental and planning organizations.

“However, it still remains questionable in my mind that a regulatory agency should be part of any partnership involving a group whose activities it regulates,” she said.

Don Williams of Harleysville said allowing the gas industry to gain a foothold in the state would set back environmental improvement efforts decades. Williams compared “the Marcellus Shale frenzy” to making a pact with the devil.

“We are once again striking a Faustian bargain at the expense of our natural resources, degrading the quality of our land and our waters in exchange for the false promises of jobs and the fleeting economic prosperity for a limited few,” he said.

“I am fully opposed to the further degradation of the Susquehanna River … and I am respectfully requesting this application be denied,” Williams said.

Williams added that until the gas industry provides full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydrofracturing process, action on all gas drilling wastewater treatment plant applications be suspended.

The draft permit for the proposed facility allows the discharge into the river of between 54,000 and 522,000 pounds of total dissolved solids per day. That equates into 15.7 million pounds of solids being discharged into the river every month, he said.

If additional plants are built, “what will our watershed … look like next year, or five years from now?” he asked.

Several people who testified, including Jon Bogle and Mark Szybist of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, said the company’s application should be resubmitted.

Szybist said the application no longer is valid because the company plans to use a different treatment process than originally was stated in the application.

A new application should be submitted and the public should be given time to review it and comment on it, he said.

Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action agreed that a new application should be submitted because of the new technology the company is proposing.

Sooy argued that because of uncertainties in the toxicity of the wastewater the facility will receive, the DEP should institute a stringent testing tool called Whole Effluent Toxicity Testing, or WETT.

Sooy also expressed concern that the method the company plans to use to treat the water through evaporation results in significant air pollution and hazardous waste disposal issues.

Former county planning department chief Jerry S. Walls said properly designed and well-run treatment plants are essential if the region is to realize the full economic impact of development of natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale.

“We need these treatment facilities, but we also must respect and use the best science available to avoid yet another cycle of natural resource extraction followed by decades of publicly funded pollution cleanup,” he said.

Walls added that he had concerns about the cumulative impact of 10 or more treatment facilities on the west branch of the river and the Chesapeake Bay.

He suggested that in addition to civil and sanitary engineers, scientists, such as health physicists, nuclear scientists and others, are needed to design methods that adequately can treat the substances contained in gas drilling flow back fluids.

Walls also expressed concern over the way in which naturally occurring radioactive material found in flow back water will be disposed of.

Local businesswoman Barbara Jarmoska said that in 30 years of working in the natural health field, she has seen increased levels of breast cancer in women and autism in children. Jarmoska said she was concerned about the agency’s ability to test for all potential toxins that could be present in the water.

Pointing to the agency’s inability or unwillingness to post permit applications and other public records online, John Kesich suggested the DEP may be involved in a conspiracy to prevent the public from receiving adequate information about gas drilling-related permits.

Ralph Kisberg, also of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, said the gas drilling boom in the region “has gone way too fast.”

Kisberg said a slower approach is needed to allow technology to catch up with the industry’s need to treat wastewater.

Caleb Banas said that to maintain the integrity of the river’s ecosystem, “it is very important that nothing other than water goes into the system.”

Salt, the main pollutant of treated gas drilling water, should not be allowed in the river, he said.

Alliance member Robbie Cross said the DEP’s philosophy on the gas industry runs counter to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s definition of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The DEP will accept written testimony through the business day on Oct. 7, said Robert Hawley of the DEP.