LOCK HAVEN - A company drilling for natural gas wants to pump up to 4 million gallons of water - on any given day - from creeks, streams and lakes in Clinton, Lycoming and Centre counties, according to a public notice posted in all three counties.
The purpose of the withdrawals is to supply the water needs for drilling and hydro-fracing natural gas wells.
The company, Anadarko E&P Co., has filed an application with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for six surface water withdrawal approvals.
In Clinton County, Anadarko is requesting SRBC approve two withdrawal points in Chapman Township and Renovo.
In Lycoming County, withdrawal is sought in Cummings and Nippenose townships and, in Centre County, Liberty and Burnside townships.
The water would be obtained from Foster Joseph Sayers Lake on Bald Eagle Creek, from Pine Creek and at four points along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and would be trucked to Anadarko's permitted well sites, which are throughout the three counties.
Anadarko has about 300,000 leased acres in the basin area, mostly in central Pennsylvania.
The application comes after SRBC "streamlined" the approval process for consumptive use of water on Jan. 1 because of the high number of applications.
"The commission acted quickly and decisively to address the unanticipated and pressing demand for water in 2008 from the natural gas industry," SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz said in a news release.
Swartz said the regulatory amendments will allow SRBC to respond "in an orderly fashion as we fulfill our dual mission to protect the basin's vital water resources and support economic development opportunities."
"Among streamlining provisions in the amended regulations, all requests for consumptive water use by the national gas industry will now be handled through SRBC's simplified approval-by-rule process (commonly known as a general permit)," Swartz said. "To make this change possible, SRBC likewise expanded the sources of water that applicants can consider for their consumptive water use, including public water supplies, discharges from wastewater treatment facilities and other reclaimed waters, and withdrawals from other sources approved separately by SRBC."
Drilling wells for natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale and other formations in the Susquehanna basin involves large volumes of water being injected underground, making it not reasonably available for future use.
The impact of drilling, drawing of water from the Susquehanna - and how any waste water from drilling operations would be treated - hasn't been outlined.
More than 72 percent of the tri-state Susquehanna watershed, covering portions of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, are underlain by the Marcellus and other organic-rich shale formations.
Advancements in technology for capturing natural gas in those shale formations require operators to inject large amounts of water under pressure several thousand feet underground to fracture the formation to stimulate the flow of gas.
A big hurdle is the treatment of salty waste water from drilling operations. Few plants are certified to treat it. The saltiness of the waste water ultimately would shut down a normal sewage treatment plant, Vilello said.
Those interested in the Anadarko water-withdrawal application may submit comments or questions to Paula Ballaron, regulatory program director, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 1721 N. Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17102-2391. E-mails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.