Waynesburg officials investigate dumping of fracking wastewater

Waynesburg officials and the state Department of Environmental Protection are investigating the dumping of up to 4,000 gallons of what is believed to be fracking wastewater into the Greene County borough’s sewer system.The fluid dump was discovered on the morning of Sept. 30 by workers at the Waynesburg Sewage Treatment Plant who noticed a spike on sewage flow meters and a gray, milky substance flowing through the plant, according to Bryan Cumberledge, assistant borough manager.“That was the first time we noticed anything like that, and we haven’t seen it again, but we are concerned we might,” Mr. Cumberledge said.The Waynesburg sewage treatment plant, which discharges into Ten Mile Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River, is not equipped to treat the salty, chemical-laden wastewater produced by the hydraulic fracturing done at Marcellus Shale gas wells.John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said the department learned of the fluid dumping incident late last week and will send inspectors to meet with Waynesburg officials this week to determine how the dumping occurred and who did it.“Waynesburg officials feel they are vulnerable somewhere in their sewer system,” Mr. Poister said. “Someone removed a manhole in a remote location and dumped the fluid.”He said the fluid had a distinctive odor associated with the shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.The process uses dozens of chemicals, some of them toxic, mixed with up to 4 million gallons of water per well to fracture the shale rock deep underground and release the gas.Somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of the fracking fluids containing the chemicals and other natural elements picked up in the shale return to the surface and are either reused or disposed of. “We want to isolate where and how this happened,” Mr. Poister said, “and work back through the system to determine who the responsible party is.”Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

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