Clean Water Action will hold a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss its pending lawsuit that says the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection allows Waste Treatment Corporation to illegally discharge oil and gas drilling wastewater into the Allegheny River.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at First Lutheran Church, 109 W. Third Ave., Warren. The meeting is co-sponsored by the West Side Alliance and the Allegheny Defense Project.
Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, said Monday that the public meeting will give the community the opportunity to ask questions and hear about what Waste Treatment Corporation is discharging into the Allegheny River. Both the state Department of Environmental Protection and Waste Treatment Corporation have been invited to the meeting.
Michael Arnold, vice president of operations for Waste Treatment Corporation, did not comment on the lawsuit Monday but did say he will attend the meeting.
DEP spokesperson Lisa Kasianowitz would not comment on the litigation, but did say WTC submitted an application for renewal on Oct. 14, 2008 that DEP is in the process of reviewing.
Clean Water Action says that WTC has "violated their water discharge permit nearly 400 times since 2010" and also has no permit from the state of Pennsylvania authorizing it to discharge oil and gas wastewater.
"The DEP has been working on permitting for over five years and in the meantime allowing them to use this out-of-date permit," said Arnowitt.
Arnold said in July the company is working within its permits and told the Times Observer, "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 the state's own study shows 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," said Arnowitt. "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 DEP 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."