WELLSBORO - The state Department of Environmental Protection is considering allowing natural gas industry well brine - the chemical-laden water that comes out of wells - to be used on roads to control ice in winter. It also will consider allowing the byproduct to be used to control construction project dust in summer.
According to DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday, there already is a general permit in place that authorizes use of treated salt water that comes back from shallow-well drilling, but not deeper Marcellus Shale drilling.
"This is from the conventional wells that were drilled into shallow well formations, a practice we have had for almost a decade," Sunday added. "Right now we have only four permit holders, three municipalities and a private contractor."
Those with current permits to apply the material on roads before and after snow and ice to reduce slippery conditions include Otto's Keystone in Pleasantville, Venango County; and three townships in Mercer County, including Greene Township, Liberty Township and Jefferson Township, Sunday said.
According to the permit requirements, which are strict, there is only so much per mile per lane they can use, he added.
"There also are treatment standards as to what needs to be separated out of the waters before it goes on the road," Sunday added.
Currently, DEP is accepting public comment on the use of non-Marcellus brine as a way to keep dust down during construction road conditions.
"We will be accepting comments through Nov. 17, then we will make a decision as to whether or not this is something the department wants to move forward with," Sunday said.
"We are also looking at using it to stabilize unpaved roads. There has been some use of that already, on a case-by-case basis. Here, we are looking to provide a uniform standard for some kind of activity," he added.
According to Sunday, it shouldn't take more than a month for DEP to make a decision.
"No matter who wants to use it, including PennDOT, they would have to go through the permit process. They would need to let us know which well it comes from, which company, and whatever formation it went through so we understand what is in the water and if we need to take any additional provisions with authorizing that use. We will keep a close eye on it," he added.
"But we are not considering opening it up to Marcellus Shale wells," he said.
Drilling companies must report to DEP every six months how much residual waste water is generated from Marcellus Shale gas wells and for every other oil and gas well they report every year how much is being produced and what they are doing with it, Sunday added.
The general permit, which shows all the details as to what the water has to look like to be used, can be found at www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=18&objI D=505511&mode=2.
Comments concerning the proposal should be directed to Scott E. Walters, Chief, General Permits/Beneficial Use Section, Division of Municipal and Residual Waste, Bureau of Waste Management, P.O. Box 8472, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8472, telephone 717-787-7381.