Two new publications address Marcellus Shale-related water issues


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two new publications from Penn State Extension will help Pennsylvania citizens to become familiar with Marcellus Shale-related water issues, with an eye toward participating in public policy decisions.


Marcellus Shale Gas Well Drilling: Regulations to Protect Water Supplies in Pennsylvania introduces the various water-related policies affecting Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling. Marcellus Shale Wastewater Issues in Pennsylvania — Current and Emerging Treatment and Disposal Technologies discusses the state of the art in treatment and disposal of wastewater from Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling.

“Individuals, businesses and communities may be affected by the operations of this rapidly growing industry in the commonwealth,” said the publications’ lead author, Charles Abdalla, professor of agricultural and environmental economics. “Public policies for environmental protection will be improved if the affected parties — which include almost everyone — are well-informed about likely impacts and take advantage of opportunities to participate in decisions.”

Policy makers at the federal, multi-state, state and local levels have made regulatory decisions affecting shale gas exploration, with implications for water resources.

In most cases, these regulations originated with legislation, such as Pennsylvania’s Oil and Gas Act. However, government agency rule-making and court decisions also influence how gas drilling affects water resources and the environment.

Marcellus Shale Gas Well Drilling: Regulations to Protect Water Supplies in Pennsylvania, discusses the roles of the various levels of government, relevant sections of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, permit requirements, protection of drinking water quality and groundwater, methods for disposing of drilling fluids, and the role of river basin commissions, among other issues.

The limited options available for treatment and disposal of wastewater from this burgeoning industry have slowed the industry’s expansion. But in the past year or so, important state regulatory changes have been finalized, clearing the way for innovation to meet the challenges of treating Marcellus wastewater, which is very high in total dissolved solids.

Marcellus Shale Wastewater Issues in Pennsylvania — Current and Emerging Treatment and Disposal Technologies covers the volume of wastewater generated by the industry in Pennsylvania, the types and chemistries of Marcellus wastewater, additives used in hydrofracturing, the state’s new total dissolved solids standards, and the various options for wastewater treatment and disposal.


Abdalla said the publications are aimed at engaging residents, landowners, environmental organizations, economic development groups and others. “Now is the time for people to learn about and help shape public policies that will guide development of the Marcellus Shale,” Abdalla said. “These policies will play a large part in determining the economic well-being and quality of life for residents of the commonwealth for a long time — perhaps generations — to come.”

The publications are based upon work supported by the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the center.

Get one. These and other publications on water-related aspects of Marcellus Shale gas exploration are available online at


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