Local businessmen Dan Ertel and Tim Butters saw treating gas industry wastewater as a good opportunity.
They had another reason for wanting to treat the wastewater, however.
"We value our water," Butters said.
Tim Butters, of Eureka Resources, holds gas drilling wastewater in one hand and, in the other, water treated at his company’s plant. Butters said the company is able to treat industry wastewater to state discharge standards.
"Back in 2008, we discerned there was going to be a need for this service and there was nobody in the area capable of doing it," Ertel said. "We set about to open our own plant and provide the service to the industry.
"The other thinking was - we're local. It's a service to the industry and a service to our local environment," he said.
"I live at the base of two beautiful streams," Butters said. "We want to keep the environment clean. I believe our customers do, too."
The plant - called Eureka Resources - opened in the city in late 2008 and now treats about 300,000 gallons of industry wastewater a day. The plant is capable of treating 400,000 to 450,000 gallons a day.
The plant is permitted by the state Department of Environmental Protection to treat and send the wastewater to the Williamsport Sanitary Authority. The company also recycles water for industry reuse.
According to Ertel, part of the process used to treat the water involves removing metals and suspended solids.
The process entails using a small amount of chemicals to raise the pH level of the water. A coagulant is added that causes materials in the water to form into a gelatin-like substance called "floc."
The water is run through a clarifying process that removes the floc. The floc is sent to a settling tank and then run through a filter press that removes excess water and creates a "filter cake" that may be sent only to a landfill permitted to receive it.
The company sends the material to two such facilities: Laurel Highlands Landfill near Johnstown, and White Plains Landfill near Bloomsburg.
At that point, the water, which contains high levels of total dissolved solids - or salts -is run through a mechanical vapor recompression system, or MVR, Ertel said.
"We're boiling water and compressing it," he said. "When we do that, we're making pure distilled water coming out one stream and highly concentrated (total dissolved solids) water coming out another stream."
Between 80 and 85 percent of water taken to the facility ends up distilled, Butters said. The remaining 15 to 20 percent, which has very high concentrations of salt, is sent to a regulated injection well in Ohio.
The company is proposing a crystalizer that will greatly reduce the amount of wastewater that must be trucked to Ohio.
According to Butters, the system - Aqua-Pure - is made in Calgary, Canada, has seen extensive use in the Barnett Shale region of Texas. The technology has been responsible for treating about 500 million gallons of gas industry wastewater, he said.
"It's not like this is an experiment," he said. "It's a proven technology."
The system employs three 700 horsepower, natural gas-fueled engines that cause the water to be boiled and the vapor given off from it to be compressed.
Trucks delivering the water pull into enclosed bays so that the wastewater does not mix with other sources of water, such as rain water.
Each truckload of water is tested before it is processed, Ertel said.
Likewise, water produced by the process is "tested for everything in the DEP's list of materials of concern," plus a variety of parameters the Williamsport Sanitary Authority is concerned about, "even though we are not discharging to them directly," Ertel said.
The system is computerized to ensure it is working properly and the water is treated to desired parameters, Ertel said.
Using recycled water saves gas companies money by reducing the cost of withdrawing water from local sources.
"Distilled water goes back to the frack guys for re-use," Ertel said. "We're saving them (money) on withdrawals."
Butters said the company is the only one in the state meeting the new Marcellus Shale wastewater discharge standards recently imposed by DEP.
"We want everyone to know we are part of the solution and we are pro-active," Butters said.
"We are the only company in the state meeting the (new) discharge limits and we are doing it on our own. We are meeting those standards," Butters added.