An environmental group has filed a notice of intent to file a lawsuit against Waste Treatment Corporation for alleged illegal discharge of oil and gas drilling wastewater into the Allegheny River.
Clean Water Action, a grassroots organization that advocates for clean water and decreased pollution, issued a press release on Thursday announcing the intent to file suit, claiming, in part, that WTC has "violated their water discharge permit nearly 400 times since 2010" and also has no permit from the state of Pennsylvania authorizing them to discharge oil and gas wastewater.
But, to Michael Arnold, vice president of operations for Waste Treatment Corporation, the company is working within its permits.
Referencing the suit, Arnold said, "We'll take each step as it comes. We take all allegations seriously. We know we're operating under Pennsylvania state regulations."
Arnold said working in the wastewater business "opens us up as a target for environmental groups. We've been operating since 1988... this is going to happen."
Clean Water Action claims that WTC is contaminating the river without any state intervention.
"The state's own study found that Waste Treatment Corporation is damaging the Allegheny River, yet still no action has been taken to stop this contamination," Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, said in the release. "We could wait no longer for help from the state or EPA. We filed this case so that companies discharging gas drilling wastewater into our rivers know this practice must end."
Arnold said DEP representatives have toured his facility and that the facility is NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) certified by the state.
According to a statement by Clean Water Action, the state Department of Environmental Protection conducted a study in 2012 that found high levels of salts, metals and radioactive compounds just downstream from Waste Treatment Corporation's discharge pipe in the Allegheny River. Chloride, bromide, lithium, strontium, radium-226 and radium-228 were "all found downstream of WTC's discharge at levels over 100 times the levels upstream of the plant. Not only was there water contamination, but pollutants were building up in the river bed sentiment, where DEP found radioactivity and oily deposits. The plant's discharge of 200,000 gallons of wastewater per day is putting over 125,000 pounds of salt into the Allegheny River each day."
Clean Water Action also alleges, "The company discharged illegal amounts of arsenic, titanium, selenium, as well as having a discharge that had a pH at times too acidic, and at other times too alkaline."
"You hear all the time that gas drilling wastewater doesn't end up in our rivers anymore," Arnowitt said. "However, this is one case in which it clearly is. And the fact that there is radioactivity involved makes it much more likely this wastewater is coming from unconventional gas wells, like the Marcellus Shale. Regardless of the source of the waste, there simply has to be immediate action to stop further pollution of the Allegheny. If Waste Treatment wants to take drilling wastewater, they need to install proper technology to remove these contaminants."
"Inaccurate, very inaccurate," Arnold said, adding that litigation like this hurts the industry and hinders jobs. He also noted, "We drink the same water. (We) swim in the same river."
"This is what they do," Arnold said of environmental groups. He explained the business has no intention of shutting down or selling in the face of litigation. He said the company will move forward, providing a service necessary to the oil and gas industry.