Fracking Fluid Treatment Plant Proposal Raises Concerns in Pennsylvania

A proposed hydraulic fracturing water treatment facility is not getting a warm reception in one Northeastern Pennsylvania town. At a meeting before the Wysox Township Zoning Hearing Board last week to discuss the issue, some attendees expressed concerns about the impact the fracking facility would have on the community.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. The chemicals that make up that fracking fluid are cause for concern. They may include, among other things, barium, strontium, benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high. Thanks to a move by Congress in 2005, fracking is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, so drillers don’t have to disclose what is contained in their fracking fluids.

Eureka Resources LLC of Williamsport wants to construct the facility discussed at last week’s hearing. It would process waste water from fracking operations into distilled water. The plant would have the capacity to handle 420,000 gallons of waste water from per day.

According to The Daily Review, roughly 60 tanker trucks would bring waste water daily to the 20,000 square foot facility, with 80 percent of the water being returned as distilled water to well sites for further fracking. The plant would also produce solid wastes, which would contain heavy metals and which would be hauled in a rolloff container by single truck to a lined landfill once per day, as well as concentrated brine water, which would mean an additional 15 trucks per day to transport it to disposal wells in Ohio, The Daily Review said.

At a meeting last Thursday, the zoning board chose not to make a decision on granting Eureka a permit for the facility because it had not received any material related to the project until the meeting. It will continue the hearing at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the Wysox Township municipal building. Last week, however, the board did hear from residents concerned about the plan, The Daily Review said.

Some attendees expressed concerns about the amount of truck traffic the facility would create. Some also noted that the facility, which would be located at Leisure Drive in Wysox Township, is in a residential area, and others were worried about toxins in the fracking fluids the facility would process. One attendee noted that a similar processing facility operated by Eureka in Williamsport has monitors to measure radioactivity.

According to The Daily Review, an official from Eureka said the fracking fluid would meet all drinking water standards, except the standard for ammonia. He also said radioactivity has never been detected at the Williamsport facility, which has been operating for two years.

The Eureka official also made assurances that the proposed plant would not discharge waste products into the Susquehanna River and would in general not discharge distilled water into the river. However, according to The Daily Review, Eureka is seeking a permit that would allow it to discharge distilled water into the Susquehanna in certain “emergency” situations.

Pennsylvania has seen several water contamination incidents where fracking is a suspected cause. In September, for example, Pennsylvania environmental officials ordered Chesapeake Energy Corp. to inspect the well casings of 171 natural-gas wells in the state after methane was found to be leaking from six wells in Bradford County.

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