Susquehanna River Sentinel

I just wanted to pass along this link to another blogger’s site who is offering some great information. His recent post addresses water withdrawls and there is a note about Pine Creek (the one that runs through Tioga County, PA) and the water that is being taken from that source.

http://srs444.blogspot.com/2011/04/hydrofracturing-minus-water-moratorium.html

Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

The following is a blog – a personal perspective –  on visiting Dimock, PA and seeing for the first time gas drilling’s impact on that area. After taking the last couple of weekends to travel around PA to see this sort of thing for myself I know how scary and powerful it can be. This blog is well done and I wanted to share it with all of you. Thanks for the link Anne!

Visiting Dimock, Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

Kate Sinding
Senior Attorney, New York City
Posted April 15, 2010 in Curbing Pollution

Like so many who have been following controversial gas drilling issues in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale region (the geological formation that stretches from West Virginia to upstate New York), I have been hearing and reading about, and seeing images of, Dimock, PA for the past roughly year-and-a-half.  For those not in the know, Dimock has become the unfortunate poster child for all that can go wrong when industrial gas drilling in the Marcellus isn’t adequately regulated and companies make mistakes.  Residents have experienced the wide array of adverse effects associated with shale gas production – many of them, it should be noted, inherent in the activity even under the best of circumstances. These impacts include: exploding water wells, contaminated water supplies necessitating daily fresh water deliveries (complete with home invasion in order to accept the regular deliveries), rural landscapes utterly transformed into industrial zones, constant diesel fumes, 24-hour-a-day traffic and noise that literally shakes the walls of homes.

I finally had the opportunity to visit Dimock in person earlier this week.  This is the first of a series of posts that I’ll file giving some of my impressions.  I’m doing this not because I have something new or unique to offer, but because the experience so affected me.  And the people who invited me into their homes deserve to have their stories told. I have been working on the Marcellus Shale gas drilling issue for about two-and-a-half years, but as much as I have read, listened to stories, seen photos and video footage and talked about the potential adverse impacts, nothing can compare to seeing, hearing and smelling them live….

Only when you’re standing in the front yard of someone’s dream home – which was once surrounded only by their residential neighbors and farms – and see, hear, smell and feel the vibrations of the incessant truck traffic that passes at all hours of the day and night can you truly understand how transformative it is when gas production arrives in a community.  Only when you hear the constant industrial noise from every direction as new well pads are cleared, well bores drilled and then fracked – noise that likewise exists around the clock – can you comprehend how those whose lives have already been turned upside down by drilling gone wrong can never escape the constant auditory reminders.  And only when you stand in the backyard of a family who moved to the beautiful Dimock countryside after their last home burned to the ground and see the well pads to both their immediate left and right does it become clear that – even if everything had gone “right” – this family now lives in an industrial zone….

Visiting  Dimock, Seeing Gas Drilling’s Ugly Side Firsthand

To read the full blog, see photos and read others’ reactions to the blog, click here:

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ksinding/visiting_dimock_seeing_gas_dri.html

Marcellus Hearing in Williamsport, PA

Anne Harris Katz attended the four-hour hearing on Marcellus gas impacts two days ago, in Williamsport.  Here are her comments:

“I was in the audience for the entirety of this hearing, the content of which is covered in the two articles below. Of all the public events I have attended on Marcellus Shale impacts, this one had the most balance among the perspectives of industry, regulators, and groups concerned about protecting the environment and economy.

The articles in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette do a reasonable job covering the approximately four hours of testimony and Q & A between testifiers and legislators. There was not time for questions or comments from the audience, but the legislators asked good questions and made useful comments. I take issue with referring to what went on in this event as a “lively debate”. This was a public hearing at which formal testimony was taken. In my estimation it was not a debate. It would be helpful for those who could not attend to have access to a transcript of everything said. ”   AHK


Here are the two links to the articles on the Sun Gazette that she mentions.

Gas industry’s potential impact on the environment discussed at public hearing

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/542033.html?nav=5011


Impact on bay cleanup not known

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/542034.html?nav=5011

DEP finally waking up

PA Must Take Action to Protect Water Resources from Drilling Wastewater, Other Sources of TDS Pollution

Proposed Rules will Help Keep Drinking Water, Streams and Rivers Clean

HARRISBURG — High levels of total dissolved solids pollution from natural gas drilling and other sources pose a real threat to Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, including aquatic life, warned Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger today. “The treating and disposing of gas drilling brine and fracturing wastewater is a significant challenge for the natural gas industry because of its exceptionally high TDS concentrations,” said Hanger. “Marcellus drilling is growing rapidly and our rules must be strengthened now to prevent our waterways from being seriously harmed in the future.” Hanger pointed to recent examples where TDS impaired streams and affected major sources of drinking water….

To read the full DEP release, click here:
http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/newsroom/14287?id=10349&typeid=1

Gas and drilling not clean choices

Robert Howarth

Natural gas is marketed as a clean fuel with less impact on global warming than oil or coal, a transitional fuel to replace other fossil fuels until some distant future with renewable energy. Some argue that we have an obligation to develop Marcellus Shale gas, despite environmental concerns. I strongly disagree.

Natural gas as a clean fuel is a myth. While less carbon dioxide is emitted from burning natural gas than oil or coal, emissions during combustion are only part of the concern. Natural gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas with 72 times more potential than carbon dioxide to warm our planet (per molecule, averaged over the 20 years following emission). I estimate that extraction, transport and combustion of Marcellus gas, together with leakage of methane, makes this gas at least 60 percent more damaging for greenhouse warming than crude oil and similar in impact to coal.

The most recent method of hydro-fracking is relatively new technology, massive in scope and far from clean in ways beyond greenhouse gas emissions. The landscape could be dotted with thousands of drilling pads, spaced as closely as one every 40 acres. Compacted gravel would cover three to five acres for each. New pipelines and access roads crisscrossing the landscape would connect the pads. Ten or more wells per pad are expected. Every time a well is “fracked,” 1,200 truck trips will carry the needed water.

Drillers will inject several million gallons of water and tens of thousands of pounds of chemicals into each well. Some of this mixture will stay deep in the shale, but cumulatively, billions of gallons of waste fluids will surface. Under current law, drillers can use absolutely any chemical additive or waste, with no restrictions and no disclosure. Recent experience in Pennsylvania indicates regular use of toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic substances. Out of 24 wells sampled there, flow-back wastes from every one contained high levels of 4-Nitroquinoline-1-oxide, (according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation). It is one of the most mutagenic compounds known. Flow-back wastes also contain toxic metals and high levels of radioactivity extracted from the shale, in addition to the materials used by drillers.

Industry tells us that surface and groundwater contamination is unlikely, since gas is deep in the ground and drilling operations are designed to minimize leakage. Nonsense. The technology is new and understudied, but early evidence shows high levels of contamination in some drinking water wells and rivers in other states.

Accidents happen, and well casings and cementing can fail. The geology of our region is complex, and water and materials under high pressure can move quickly to aquifers, rivers and lakes along fissures and fractures. Flow-back waters and associated chemical and radioactive wastes must be handled and stored at the surface, some in open pits and ponds unless government regulation prevents this. What will keep birds and wildlife away from it? What happens downstream if a heavy rain causes the toxic soup to overflow the dam? What happens to these wastes? Adequate treatment technologies and facilities do not exist.

What about government regulation and oversight? The DEC is understaffed,underfunded and has no history with the scale and scope of exploitation now envisioned. Federal oversight is almost completely gone, due to Congress exempting gas development from most environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, in 2005.

We can be independent of fossil fuels within 20 years and rely on renewable green technologies, such as wind and solar. The constraints on this are mostly political, not technical. We do not need to sacrifice a healthy environment to industrial gas development. Rather, we need to mobilize and have our region provide some badly needed national leadership toward a sustainable energy future.

SRBC’S REAL-TIME WATER QUALITY DATA AVAILABLE ONLINE

Water Managers and Public Can Track if Streams Are Impacted by Pollution

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) today announced that real-time data from six initial remote water quality monitoring stations are now available on SRBC’s web site at www.srbc.net/programs/remotenetwork.htm.  A user-friendly map, graphs and charts are key features for viewing and understanding the data.

SRBC is deploying water quality monitoring stations in regions where natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale is most active, as well as other locations where no drilling activities are planned so SRBC can collect control-data.

SRBC’s remote water quality monitoring network continuously measures and reports water quality conditions of smaller rivers and streams in northern tier Pennsylvania and southern tier New York to track existing water quality conditions and any changes in them on an ongoing, real-time basis.

“The Commission is committed to applying good science to monitor water quality conditions in the Susquehanna basin,” said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz.  “The use of advanced technology through these monitoring stations is making it possible for us to generate the data needed to determine whether or not water quality impacts are occurring from various activities, including natural gas drilling.”

Five of the initial monitoring stations are located in Pennsylvania on Meshoppen Creek near Kaiserville in Wyoming County, Sugar Creek near Troy and Tomjack Creek near Burlington in Bradford County, Hammond Creek near Millerton in Tioga County and Trout Run near Shawville in Clearfield County.  The sixth station is located on Choconut Creek near Vestal Center in Broome County, New York.

Each monitoring station is equipped with water quality sensors and a transmitter to continuously report water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity (water clarity), water depth and conductance (ability to conduct electricity).  Elevated levels of conductance in water can be a leading indicator of impacts from natural gas activities if they occur.

SRBC receives the data collected by the network then makes it available to other resource agencies and the public through its web site.  The monitoring network will provide early warnings to help environmental protection officials respond more rapidly and better pinpoint causes if water quality conditions change.  It will also help local public water suppliers, local watershed groups and communities stay informed.

SRBC will continue installing additional stations in Pennsylvania and New York and making data available on the web site.  Thirty (30) total stations are planned by summer 2010.  More stations will follow this fall as a result of additional funding commitments SRBC has received.

The Harrisburg-based SRBC (www.srbc.net) was established under an interstate compact signed on December 24, 1970 by the federal government and New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to manage the water resources of the 27,510-square-mile Susquehanna River Basin.  The Susquehanna River starts in Cooperstown, N.Y., and flows 444 miles to Havre de Grace, Md., where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

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.

(NOTE: MANY RDA MEMBERS WERE AMONG THOSE WHO RAISED CONCERNS, URGING DEP TO DENY THIS PERMIT IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM. WE ARE GLAD THAT TERRAQUA HAS AGREED TO ADHERE TO THE  1-1-11 TDS PROPOSED REGULATIONS.

WE WILL FOLLOW THIS APPLICATION INTO ITS NEXT PHASE WHERE THE ACTUAL TECHNOLOGY WILL BE DEFINED.

ALSO OF CONCERN ARE AIR QUALITY ISSUES. WE WILL GET A BETTER IDEA ABOUT THESE AS THE APPLICATION PROGRESSES. )

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 www.depweb.state.pa.us.