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Environment & Energy

DEP Updates Drilling Waste Regulations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has revised its guidelines for the processing and use of liquid waste from oil and gas sites. The Residual Waste Beneficial Use general permit, an across the board regulation, encourages recycling liquid waste to freshwater standards after it has been used. Liquid waste includes flowback water, drilling muds, and storm water.

DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said it is easier to transport and use wastewater once it has been processed into freshwater.

"Right now wastewater gets treated as what's called a residual waste, which is a classification of industrial waste. And you need a lot of containment measures in place," said Sunday. "You need to have spill prevention, the tanks and pits that you keep it in need to be very secure with multiple liner layers."

Sunday said by encouraging the recycling of wastewater in a closed loop system drillers can reduce the amount of freshwater drawn from lakes, rivers, and streams. Facilities will be required to test regularly for 39 pollutants in order to demonstrate the processed water meets freshwater criteria.

He said some of the freshwater standards are the same as used for drinking water, while "some of the others are based on what's called 'in-stream' criteria. We basically have a pulse on the waterways in the state to see how clean and healthy the water is there," said Sunday. "So the idea here is if you treat it down to this standard, and it would find its way into our waterways, it wouldn't be an impact on the water."

Sunday said the general permit replaces three existing permits. He said there are 10 facilities operating under the prior requirements that will adopt the new regulations along with 10 more awaiting permits from the DEP.