Monday, February 22, 2010

Gas Drillers Plead Guilty to Felony Dumping Violations

Michael Evens and John Morgan of Swamp Angel Energy pleaded guilty for dumping 200,000 gallons of brine. Swamp Angel Energy has 77 active wells in McKean County in the Allegheny National Forest.

The two were dumping the waste water in an abandoned oil well. Pennsylvania allows some of their waste treatment plants to take the brine. Most of these plants are at capacity.

The amount of drilling waste and what to do with it, is a huge problem with the natural gas industry all over the nation. The industry uses excessive amount of fresh water and turns it into toxic waste that has to be disposed of. Read a few paragraphs from the Propublica article.

Drilling wastewater is one of the biggest impediments to continued development in the Marcellus Shale (you can read our coverage of the wastewater problem here [5]). A Marcellus well can produce as much as 1.2 million gallons of wastewater, much of which is brine and can’t be treated in conventional municipal wastewater treatment plants. In the western United States, most drilling wastewater is injected deep into underground wells, but in the East, geology makes those wells trickier, and more expensive, to drill. Some plants in Pennsylvania are permitted to treat drilling wastewater, but most of them are already at capacity.

The lack of treatment options is expected to become even more critical in 2011, when the state has pledged to have stronger wastewater treatment regulations [6] in place, forcing some plants that currently accept drilling wastewater to make expensive upgrades or to stop accepting it entirely.

Some companies are trying to solve the problem by recycling and reusing their wastewater. (With recycling, the industry is still left with dirty, hard-to-deal-with wastewater, but there’s less of it.)

Click here to read the complete Propublica article.

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