EPA to Set Standards for Fracking Wastewater Disposal in 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said yesterday that it will soon set national, uniform standards for the disposal of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/hydraulic_fracturing_fracking">hydraulic fracturing wastewater. As we’ve reported in the past, many natural gas drillers send fracking water to municipal water treatment plants that are ill-equipped to handle the sometimes toxic and radioactive contaminants found in such waste. This results in partially-treated water being released into rivers and streams that are also used as sources of drinking water in many areas.

“No comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural-gas extraction activities, and over the coming months, EPA will begin the process of developing a proposed standard with the input of stakeholders,” the agency said in a statement issued yesterday.

The EPA said would propose rules for wastewater from fracking in shale formations in 2014.

“We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy. The American people expect and deserve nothing less,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in the statement.

According to a report from The Washington Post, environmentalists praised the EPA announcement, but said it was long overdue.

“The nation is in the midst of a fracking-fueled gas rush which is generating toxic wastewater faster than treatment plants can handle it,” Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg said. “The EPA’s proposal is a common sense solution for this growing public health problem and will help keep poisons out of our rivers, streams, and drinking water.”

However, the president of an industry trade group based in Pennsylvania, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, called the EPA’s announcement “baffling.”

“This is yet another Washington solution in search of a problem, as treated Marcellus water in Pennsylvania is no longer discharged into surface waters,” Kathryn Klaber told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pennsylvania is the state at the center of the current hydraulic fracturing boom. While drillers in most states inject fracking wastewater into deep, underground storage wells, Pennsylvania’s geology does not allow for this. So until recently, drillers there were sending fracking waste to municipal treatment facilities, where it was eventually discharged into the state’s rivers and streams. But earlier this year, Pennsylvania regulators mandated that companies recycle their wastewater rather than send it through municipal treatment plants. What’s leftover is sent to out-of-state injection wells, the Inquirer said.

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