Friday, January 09, 2015

Series examines the impact of fracking on rural areas in the Marcellus region

About one mile from the center of the small town of Vienna, Ohio, five injection wells accepted and deposited 350,000 barrels of waste—more than 14 million gallons—from Pennsylvania during the first half of 2014, reports John Finnerty, Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. state reporter in Pennsylvania as part of a three-part series about the impact of fracking in the Marcellus region. (Finnerty photo: Safety on rural roads is a concern in areas where fracking takes place)

"The Vienna wells—and more than 200 others like them across Ohio—figure prominently into the natural gas industry’s growth in neighboring Pennsylvania over the past six years," Finnerty writes. "While drillers treat and reuse 90 percent of their liquid leftovers, according to industry estimates, the remaining 10 percent that gets sent to injection wells adds up. And it’s far easier to dispose of it in the Buckeye State than over the border—so much that last year Pennsylvania exported enough drilling wastewater to this state to fill 200 Olympic-sized pools."

While drilling companies recycle their own wastewater in 90 percent of cases, environmentalists are concerned "that as companies increasingly skip off-site treatment and instead reuse their own liquids by diluting them or treating them on-site" the water used for fracking might not be as clean as originally thought, Finnerty writes in another story.

Mark Szybist, a lawyer for the watchdog group PennFuture, told Finnerty, “There’s no good way to confirm that drillers have in fact recycled what they say they’ve recycled because Pennsylvania has no cradle-to-grave wastewater tracking system. You could argue that this exemption doesn’t make sense. But it’s not the only exemption given to the oil and gas industry that doesn’t make sense.”

Finnerty writes, "The problem takes on greater significance in light of the discovery by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that landfills reported receiving more solid waste from drilling companies than the drillers reported sending to the dump."

Craig Konkle, energy development emergency services coordinator for Lycoming County, said that while many fear the environmental impact of fracking, its single greatest threat in rural Pennsylvania is to public safety on roads, Finnerty writes in another story.

"One of the first things a firefighter or police officer must know when rushing to a heavy truck crash in the heart of Marcellus Shale country: Don’t believe what it says on side of the truck," Finnerty writes. Konkle told him, “We’ve had accidents where it said 'fresh water' on the side of the truck. But when it started leaking black liquid, we knew we weren’t dealing with fresh water.”

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