• PA DEP announces new industrial wastewater standards
  • June 30, 2009
  • Law Firm: Burns White LLC - Pittsburgh Office
  • On April 15, 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that new discharge standards for industrial wastewater containing total dissolved solids (“TDS”) will take effect in January 2011. 

    Most wastewater containing TDS is generated from oil and gas drilling operations, abandoned coal mines, and industrial activities. This water contains chlorides and sulfates that affect the taste and odor of the drinking water and, in high concentrations, may harm aquatic life. Currently, wastewater containing TDS is diluted by discharging it into streams. The regulations will move toward actually treating industrial wastewater rather than relying on dilution to protect water quality. 

    In 2008, the DEP and the natural gas drilling industry created a partnership to investigate and develop new technologies for treating wastewater from the natural gas drilling process. Natural gas drilling uses a tremendous amount of water to fracture the shale formations holding the gas, allowing the gas to travel to the surface. This process produces wastewater that could potentially contain high levels of TDS. 

    The standards would set limits on TDS that can be discharged into the water rather than treated. Additionally, all facilities accepting TDS wastewater will be required to adhere to these new limits.  The DEP will develop a proposed rule-making process this summer with opportunity for public comment.