We all know that drilling for gas has a big influence in our area. Time and time again we hear about the jobs the industry provides for our residents. To some extent this is true, but these jobs will soon diminish as the area’s gas fields are depleted.

We are all aware of the truck traffic increase and the damage to our roads, but many of us do not see the ramifications of waste disposal from drilling operations. In the following, I will point out what I have discovered about a major problem to the mighty Monongahela “Mon” River.

I recently attended a meeting in Belle Vernon. There is deep concern about their sewage treatment plant. This plant is taking in leachate, water that drains from a landfill. The area’s particular landfill was permitted to take 80% of its total waste from the drilling industry. I thought this practice was no longer occurring.

It was understood that the sewage treatment plants would voluntarily stop running frack waste through their plants since they could not address the chemical removal process needed to clean the water. Well I can tell you that in this particular case, that is not the case. Water from the landfill is being run through the plant and dumped into the Mon river.

The irony is that this discharge is less than a mile up river from the Charleroi drinking water intakes. Along with this, there is a large stream that runs alongside the landfill. That stream also dumps into the Mon near the sewage plant. To my knowledge there is little to no regular monitoring of this stream.

Upon looking at the required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, I noted some unusual permitted discharges. For example, the standard for drinking water with total dissolved solids (TDS), which the Water Research Center states, is “comprise[d of] inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates)” is 500 mg/L TDS. However, the permit allows 1,000 mg/l TDS to be discharged. This is twice the drinking water standards. There were several other permitted chemical releases much higher than the drinking water standards permit.

The adage, “the solution to pollution is dilution,” comes into play here. I guess the hope was that the Mon could dilute the leachate discharge?

Then there is the problem of addressing these chemicals in our drinking water. There are chemicals being dumped into our raw water supplies that are not addressed in our drinking water standards. For example, bromide has no standard for being dumped into our raw water supplies. So, it is not checked for in our drinking water.

Another example is Radium 226. This radioactive element is a product of drilling, yet the water authorities are not required to regularly check for it. That means it is possible this element is in our drinking water.

You must also remember that there are over 55 compounds used by the drilling industry, which are impossible to test. The compounds can be in our drinking water and we have no way of telling. I feel that this is happening in the Mon at Belle Vernon.

Leachate from this landfill should never run through the sewage treatment plant. The landfill’s operators should have been forced to build a proper treatment facility if they were going to take in fracking waste. The problem should never have been placed on the plant and the area’s residents. It was extremely poor management practice.

This makes me wonder about all the other landfills in our area.

How bad are they?

As I work more on this and other problems arising, I will keep you abreast of what I am finding. Until then always keep your faith in a higher power.

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