PA Fish and Boat Commission Targets Gas Extraction as Resource Threat
Wastewater Facilities Accepting Marcellus Shale Brine and Major Drainage Basins. Click the map for a larger, dynamic view.
By Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH.
Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities
Management Plans by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been released for public comment for the 3 major drainages in Pennsylvania:
- Three Rivers (Includes the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers
Public meetings on each of these draft plans are underway and dates and times and places of future meetings for each basin are now available on the PFBC website.
The PFBC has as its goal of these management plans – to protect, conserve and enhance the aquatic resources of and provide fishing and boating opportunities. The PFBC also has an important role in investigating releases of brine water from oil and gas extraction operations. Mr. John Arway the Executive Director of the PFBC just published in the January / February Edition of Pennsylvania Angler and Boater a very sobering assessment of water withdrawals and permitted pollution of Pennsylvania waterways by NPDES permit holders. He states that end users of municipal water are paying increased costs for water purification because of companies that are allowed to pollute receiving waters. This is a very courageous statement and I concur wholly with him on this. His complete statement can be found here.
Below are presented excerpts from the PFBC Draft Three Rivers Management Plan that pertains to Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Most important is their statement in the draft plan that in 2008, several wastewater treatment plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008. Other passages related to Marcellus are:
- “In June 2010, the Monongahela River was named number nine of the top ten America’s Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers primarily because of continuing threats from water pollution impacts from natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale.”
- “Since 2008, PADEP Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh has directed a comprehensive
water quality monitoring investigation of the Monongahela River related to impacts from disposal of contaminated frac-flowback water from Marcellus Shale drilling sites. This office has also surveyed fish, mussel, and invertebrate assemblages of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers as well as collected water quality and sediment quality samples and evaluated riparian and instream habitats for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Environmental
Monitoring and Assessment Program for Great Rivers Ecosystems (EMAP-GRE). PADEP will
provide PFBC information and results of Allegheny and Monongahela EMAP-GRE when the
project is complete (in 2011).”
- “Marcellus Shale is a unit of Devonian-age sedimentary rock found throughout the Appalachian
Plateau. Named for a distinctive outcrop located near the village of Marcellus, New York,
Marcellus Shale contains a massive and largely untapped natural gas reserve, which has high
economic potential (trillions of dollars) given its proximity to high-demand markets in the eastern United States. Using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, numerous Marcellus Shale wells have been installed within the upper Ohio River basin for exploitation of natural gas.”
- “With any resource extraction operation, there are environmental consequences. For Marcellus
Shale drilling, most issues involve the transport, treatment, and disposal of contaminated frac flowback water, a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. In 2008, several wastewater treatment
plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple
sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in
conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high
as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008.”
- “Some Monongahela River tributaries continue to be disturbed by modern industries, such as longwall mining and Marcellus Shale drilling, including Dunkard Creek and Tenmile Creek. Major tributary streams of the upper Ohio River include Chartiers Creek (one of the most disturbed streams in the basin from numerous perturbations), Raccoon Creek (a recovering stream), and the Beaver River system.”