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

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.

Northcentral Regional Office of DEP Report for Sept 28th-Oct 2nd



Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ACTION

Nothing new to report

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ATTENTION

Nothing new to report

Management and Productivity

Nothing new to report

Recovery Activities

Nothing new to report

What’s Hot/Major Actions

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. Spill, Dimock Township, Susquehanna County: On Sept. 24, the Oil and Gas program issued an order to Cabot requiring the company to cease the hydro fracking of any wells in Susquehanna County until the company completes a number of important engineering and safety tasks.  The order requires Cabot to develop within 14 days an updated and accurate Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan for all permitted well pad sites in Susquehanna County. The company must conduct an engineering study of all equipment and work practices associated with hydraulic fracturing at all well sites in the county within 21 days. Cabot also must place the approved Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan in a conspicuous location at each permitted well site and provide a copy to each contractor and subcontractor working at any well site. Contractors and subcontractors cannot begin work at any well site until they receive the two plans.  (Jennifer Means 570-321-6557)

TerrAqua Resource Management LLC Public Hearing, City of Williamsport, Lycoming County: On Sept. 30, a public hearing was held by DEP’s Water Management program to receive testimony regarding TerrAqua’s draft NPDES industrial wastewater permit. The company wants to construct a plant to treat gas well drilling wastewater.  This public hearing follows a public meeting that was held July 8, which generated significant public interest and comment.  About 60 people attended the public hearing with 12 people providing oral testimony.  Clean Water Action was the only statewide environmental group that provided testimony.  DEP will continue to accept written testimony and comments regarding this permit application through Oct. 7.  (Robert Hawley 570-327-0530)

Northeastern ITS LLC, Mercer, Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill, Lehigh and Northampton Counties: The Pa. Bulletin notice for the Chapter 102 permit application was published Sept. 26 for this fiber optic line project.  AECOM, consultant for Northeastern ITS, continues to update the mapping for the Chapter 102 permit application.  One such update now includes a portion of Columbia County.  This change will necessitate a revised notice to the Pa. Bulletin.  NWRO has not received any revised Chapter 105 applications.  (John Twardowski 570-321-6523)

Emergency Response, Pine Creek Township, Clinton County: On Sept. 22, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan responded to a residual waste spill along Pa. Route 220 in Pine Creek Township.  A Dirt Inc. truck was transporting gas drilling fines from a Chesapeake gas well in Bradford County to the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority in Wayne Township.  For an unknown reason, the truck lost the entire load from the Avis exit of Route 220 to the landfill in Wayne Township.  The local fire department was washing the residual waste from the road surface until requested to stop.  PennDOT then used a street sweeper to remove the sludge from the road surface.  Eagle Towing and Recovery was hired to remove the residue from the shoulder of the road.  Appalachian Utilities has a drinking water well in the immediate vicinity supplying Avis Borough and Pine Creek Township.  The incident was referred to the Waste Management program for follow up.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Potential Problems/Potential Major Actions

Watrous Water Association, Gaines Township, Tioga County: Water Supply Management program staff continue to deal with the Watrous Water Association regarding its community water system.  The association board discontinued use of the Benaur Spring since there was no disinfection on that source.  The property owners of the land where the spring is located stated that they will not allow the association to use their land to provide power or construct buildings in order for disinfection to occur.  The association has reverted to using Hanky Panky Spring as its sole source, which is also under the influence of surface water and needs to either be abandoned or filtered.  Exceedingly high water use due to seasonal use of homes and cabins on the system has caused problems meeting the demand.  A number of association board members have threatened to resign and have told a number of system customers that they should be drilling individual wells.  Watrous Water Association has neither the financial nor managerial capabilities to run a community water system.  DEP staff will continue to work with the association though it appears a compliance document will ultimately be needed to keep the association moving in a positive manner to comply with our regulations.  (John Hamilton 570-327-3650)

Good News/Major Accomplishments

Sewage Connection Limitations Lifted, Moshannon Valley Joint Sewer Authority, Centre County: In 2002, Moshannon Valley Joint Sewer Authority and its tributary communities of Morris, Rush, and Decatur Townships, and Chester Hill and Philipsburg Boroughs were placed on sewage planning restrictions.  The sewage treatment plant was hydraulically and organically overloaded, experienced bypasses, and had multiple effluent violations.  Most of the problems were associated with excessive inflow/infiltration entering the collection systems in the respective municipalities.  Through consent orders and agreements with each of the tributary municipalities, the collections systems were rehabilitated to eliminated the excessive inflow/infiltration.  The flows have been greatly reduced, no effluent violations have been reported for at least two years, and the treatment plant is no longer in an existing or projected overload.  On Sept. 28, the Water Management program lifted the planning restrictions.  (Robert Boos 570-327-3399)

M.W. Farmer Co., South Williamsport Borough, Lycoming County: On Sept. 23, the Waste Management program received the final payment of a $48,000 civil penalty issued to the M.W. Farmer Co. for residual waste violations.  The civil penalty was part of a November 2005 consent order and agreement with Farmer to correct residual waste violations that included accepting and storing residual waste associated with the removal and salvaging of underground storage tanks, and the acceptance and storage of waste oil, which requires a permit from DEP, at the company’s property in South Williamsport. (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

Casella Waste Management of New York Inc., Ulysses Township, Potter County:  On Sept. 24, the Waste Management program finalized a $3,000 civil penalty with Casella Waste Management of New York Inc. for waste transporter violations noted during an Aug. 26 waste vehicle inspection at the Potter County Transfer Station.  Casella operated two waste transportation vehicles that lacked the required sign to identify the type of solid waste being transported.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

On-Lot Sewage Crisis, Lycoming Sanitary Committee, Lycoming County: The committee relies on an 85 percent state grant to cover operating expenses. Because of the budget impasse and the early depletion of allocated funds under the previous budget, the committee is currently operating on a $150,000 line of credit from a local bank that is projected to run out on Sept. 25. This is in addition to the 2008 state reimbursement of $260,000 that it is still waiting to receive for the previous year’s expenses. The board had voted to permanently close down the agency if it doesn’t get the state reimbursement by Sept. 25.  UPDATE: During its meeting on Sept. 24, the board decided to keep the doors open until November when it will reevaluate staying in operation or closing and filing for bankruptcy.  The hope is that by November the state budget will be resolved, the grant program funded, and the 2008 reimbursement received. (Robert Boos 570-327-3399)

Outreach/Upcoming Events

Conservation District Roundtable, Northcentral Region: On Sept. 25, the Watershed Management program hosted the fall conservation district roundtable meeting with our conservation district partners.  Conservation district staff from 12 districts attended and heard reports and took part in discussion on the Lycoming County nutrient trading project; an update on the Oil and Gas program in the NCRO; increased activity in regional agricultural compliance; and an update from central office staff on the newly revised Chapter 102 erosion control regulations.  The group then divided into program specific breakout sessions to further discuss program issues with the respective program staff.  Two of these roundtable meetings are held each year to further increase the communication and close working relationship with our conservation districts and to exchange ideas and concerns on specific issues.  (David Garg 570-321-6581)

Green Career Day, Mt. Pisgah State Park, Bradford County: On Sept. 30, two Water Management biologists were invited for the fourth year in a row to set up a station at the Career Day for 8th graders from Tioga, Bradford and Sullivan Counties.  DEP was one of 21 agencies and green industries represented at the Career Day.  Students learned about the importance and variety of natural resource job opportunities that exist in the Northern Tier.  As in years past, the DEP station was very popular with around 32 students learning about fish capture techniques, fish identification and health and environmental conditions that affect fish populations.  Many questions were asked and interest was shown in a career with DEP. (Tom Randis 570-327-3781)

OSHA Refresher and General Safety Training, Northcentral Regional Office: On Sept. 23, Gerald McKernan, Jack Kernan, John Erich and Denny Wright conducted OSHA Refresher and General Safety Training to eleven NCRO employees.  The training provided employees with an overview of hazardous material safety procedures, Office of Administration, DEP’s and Field Operation’s safety policies, and basic standard operating procedures.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Table Top Exercise, City of Lock Haven, Clinton County: On Sept. 29, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan participated in a table top exercise at the Clinton County Emergency Operations Center in Lock Haven.  The exercise was a fracking pipe failure resulting in a heating oil release and a brush fire at a well site in Grugan Township.  Other state agencies participating in the exercise were the State Police, PennDOT, PEMA, and DCNR, along with local emergency fire and medical services.  The exercise was managed by O’Brien’s Response Management and funded by Anadarko.  It was an excellent networking and learning experience for all participants.  Communication problems were the major issue due to the remoteness of the location, lack of cell service, satellite phone connectivity, and lack of radio communications by Anadarko with the county.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Act 2

Palmer Industrial Coatings Inc. Act 2 Site, Woodward Township, Lycoming County: Palmer Industrial Coatings was granted Act 2 relief of liability on Sept. 30 for soil contaminated with gasoline, diesel and heating oil.  The soil was remediated to meet Statewide Health Standards.  One 2000-gallon underground storage tank that previously held heating oil and two 1000-gallon tanks that previously held gasoline/diesel fuel were located onsite.  The tanks were removed starting in June 2008 by M.W. Farmer.  Soil was found to be contaminated with gasoline, diesel and heating oil constituents and was excavated.  Three confirmatory soil samples were taken below each tank for a total of nine samples.  All soil samples came back below DEP’s Statewide Health Standards.  About 74 tons of contaminated soil was disposed at Lycoming County Landfill.  (Randy L. Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Rainey Property Act 2 Site, Bell Township, Clearfield County: On Sept. 30, the Environmental Cleanup program approved an Act 2 Final Report that demonstrated attainment of the Site-Specific Standard for soil and groundwater.  In 1998, gasoline contaminated groundwater was discovered at a property across the road from the site.  DEP’s investigation revealed that the site was a former gasoline station and in the mid-1980s underground storage tanks were removed without closure sampling being conducted.  The property owner, Richard Rainey, refused to complete site characterization.  As a result, DEP issued an administrative order on Jan. 18, 2002.  Soil and groundwater characterization were completed for the site.  About 114 tons of contaminated soil was removed from the former tank pit area.  Sampling of soil and groundwater demonstrated attainment of the Site-Specific Standard.  (Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

FB Leopold Act 2 Site, Watsontown Borough and Delaware Township, Northumberland County: On Sept. 23, the Environmental Cleanup program approved the Act 2 Final Report for the attainment of a Non-Residential Statewide Health standard for soil and groundwater at the FB Leopold Media Filter Company in Watsontown.  The site was used for brick manufacturing from 1913 through 1986, and a coal gasification plant was operated on a portion of the site from 1979 to 1984.  In 1990, the site became an anthracite screening operation.  FB Leopold operated from 1996 through 2006, when the current owner, ITT Corporation, assumed operations.  An environmental site assessment detected isolated areas of soil contamination.  Remediation consisted of excavation of these impacted soil areas, and the collection of post-remedial samples confirmed that Act 2 Non-Residential Statewide Health standards had been attained.  An executed environmental covenant was submitted to ensure that the site use remains non-residential and that groundwater not be used as a potable water source. (Larry Newcomer 570-327-3418)

NPDES Majors Backlog Status

Number of Overdue Permits-0

Number of Permits Issued This Week-0

Number of Permits Newly Expired This Week-0

(Chad Miller 570-327-3639)

Items for the DEP Planning Calendar

Nothing new to report

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.