COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has determined that certain permits governing treatment and disposal of brine from oil and gas wells, issued in Trumbull County by the former Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, were not issued legally.
In two appeals involving permits issued to Patriot Water Treatment LLC and the city of Warren pending at the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, the attorney general has filed a determination of unlawful permit issuance and request for remand indicating that permits issued to Patriot and the city of Warren were not in compliance with Ohio Revised Code Section 1509.22.
That provision mandates that all brine and other fluids generated by oil and gas well drilling, including fracking liquids, must be disposed through methods specified in that statute. The permits issued to Patriot and the City of Warren were not issued for any of the statutorily approved methods.
“It is my determination that the permits issued previously did not have a basis in the law,” said Attorney General DeWine. “The safety of Ohio’s water is too important to put at risk as most wastewater treatment plants don’t currently have the proper technology for adequately treating fracking fluids.”
The action by the attorney general is consistent with determinations made by the current Director of Ohio EPA that brine and fracking fluids should not be managed by wastewater treatment plants unless the plant employs a certified innovative technology, which Patriot’s and the city of Warren’s do not.
The attorney general has asked the commission to dismiss the appeals and return the permits to the director of Ohio EPA for further action.
Ohio EPA speaks
The Ohio EPA agrees with Patriot and the city of Warren that an error was made by granting these permits, however the Ohio EPA has different views as to why they should be invalidated. In addition, there are sound environmental reasons for invalidating these permits. Patriot wants to dispose of more than 100,000 gallons of oil and gas brine per day into the city of Warren sewer system while Ohio EPA believes under Ohio law, this type of disposal is illegal.
“Options are available to Patriot to properly dispose of brine under Ohio law, but sending brine water to a wastewater treatment facility is not one of them. Under Governor Kasich’s administration, Ohio EPA has tried for the past 10 months, and will continue to try, to give Patriot the flexibility necessary to operate their business, but disposing of oil and gas brine into the waters of our state is not going to be tolerated,” said Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally.
Concentrations of salts in brines from oil and gas drilling can reach up to 300,000 mg/L. By comparison, the concentration of salt in seawater is 35,000 mg/L. Source: USGS
A typical sewage treatment plant is not designed to treat all of the pollutants in oil and gas flowback water, including Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). The plant relies on mixing flowback water with other wastewater and the capacity of the receiving stream, river or lake to dilute the concentration of these pollutants.
High levels of TDS in streams, rivers and lakes can impair water quality and adversely impact aquatic life.
Pennsylvania asked natural gas drillers to stop delivering oil and gas brine to the state’s wastewater treatment facilities as a way to cut back on the amount of bromides and salts impacting western Pennsylvania waterways.
Bromide, in raw drinking water supplies, turns into unsafe compounds called Trihalomethanes when it’s combined with chlorine for disinfection at drinking water treatment plants.
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