A pipeline designed to transport water directly to natural gas drilling sites in Lycoming County went into operation in early April.
As of the end of that month, the pipeline reduced by about 2,000 the number of truck trips required to support drilling operations in the area, according to Karl Kyriss, president of project developer Aqua Capital Ventures LLC.
The company buys water from the Jersey Shore Water Authority and pumps it from the authority's water plant on Larrys Creek to gas drilling operations to the north, Kyriss said.
The company has a three-year agreement with Range Resources-Appalachia LLC that allows the company to provide fresh water to three Range water impoundments.
About 30 drilling sites will benefit from the water system, Kyriss said.
The operation, which is owned by Aqua-PVR Water Services LLC, a partnership between subsidiaries of Aqua America Inc. and Penn Virginia Resources Partners, is the first in which water is piped directly to drilling sites without the use of large, water-hauling trucks, according to the company.
Both companies invested about $10.2 million toward the project, which is the first of a two-phase initiative designed to pipe water directly to drilling sites, Kyriss said.
The second phase involves the construction of a water withdrawal facility and pump station at the Riverdale Mobile Home Park in Piatt Township.
"It's still a mobile home park," Kyriss said of the park. He added that since the company bought the property, tenants have been allowed to stay there rent free.
They also have been offered a $2,500 incentive to move by June 1, he said. After June 1, the incentive no longer will be available.
The company has no plans to evict any of the residents, Kyriss said, adding that he is working on a solution regarding residents who do not have the ability to move from the park.
No decision has been made regarding what the solution will be, he said.
Kyriss said piping water to gas drilling sites significantly can reduce the number of trucks serving gas drilling sites, thus easing traffic congestion and wear and tear on local roadways.
"Water trucks haul an average of 5,000 gallons. Our pumping rate at Jersey Shore is 500,000 gallons per day, so every day we're pulling about 100 trucks off the road," Kyriss said.
When the second phase of the project goes online, the impact on truck traffic will be much larger. The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has approved the withdrawal of up to 3 million gallons of water per day from the site, which equals about 6,000 truck trips per day, Kyriss said.
"I firmly believe (gas drilling) is going to happen whether or not I get involved," he said. "I want to see it accomplished in the best possible way."
In addition to reducing wear and tear on local roads, the water system will cut down on diesel emissions and noise pollution, said Nicholas DeBenedictis, chairman and CEO of Aqua America.
"We've been in the water business for more than 125 years and shale drilling is a very water intensive business," he said. "As this business continues to grow, it's important that water professionals like Aqua America be involved to ensure the proper management of such an important resource."
Kyriss said the company plans to have phase two in service by the fourth quarter of the year.
The site was appealing for two reasons, he said. It was for sale and had been for several years and it was ideally located near the river and gas drilling operations.