A consent order between the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority and Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill to prevent alleged wastewater leachate from polluting the Monongahela River has been extended for 12 months.
In a filing in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, Fayette County District Attorney Rich Bower and Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone filed paperwork to extend the original 90-day injunction to stop the discharge of wastewater into the Monongahela River.
Wednesday marked the end of the initial 90-day continuance of the case.
The consent order, which was agreed to by the authority and the landfill, enjoins the landfill from discharging any effluent containing contaminated chemicals into the Monongahela River, with the landfill also barred from sending or passing through wastewater, contaminants, leachate and any other substances to the authority.
According to the complaint filed by Bower and Vittone, cuttings from oil and gas wells comprised of oil, diesel fuel, phenols and other substances are buried within the landfill and leached through by water when it rains, contaminating the water with those chemicals. The contaminated water is then piped to the authority’s wastewater treatment facility.
The authority notified the landfill by letter that a treated water sample violated certain chemical standards. The authority determined the landfill was sending 100,000 to 300,000 gallons per day of contaminated water to the authority despite a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued to the authority only allowing 50,000 gallons per day of contaminated water to be treated there, preventing the authority from complying with the permit.
According to an analysis conducted around that time by Environmental Service Laboratories, Inc., samples of the landfill leachate revealed the authority has been receiving leachate that includes high levels of ammonia and volatile organic compounds such as magnesium, barium and phenols — chemicals that are commonly found in shale gas drilling and fracking waste.
Ro Rozier, a spokeswoman for the landfill, said in June that the landfill has “zero citations or violations for our leachate quality from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the DEP routinely monitors our landfill. In good faith, WSL decided to shut off the pipe even though we are not in violation of any water quality standards.”
At the time, she said the water was being sent offsite.
“We will continue making large investments in onsite technology to improve leachate quality that will exceed government standards,” she said.