EPA to block drillers from sending wastewater to municipal treatment plants


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving to block one option for oil and gas companies trying to get rid of the millions of gallons of briny, metal-laden wastewater that can flow out of each hydraulically fractured well — leaving the industry with few alternatives.

At issue is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to block companies from sending that drilling wastewater to municipal treatment facilities ill equipped to remove the naturally occurring radium, bromide and other toxins carried with the fluid out of the ground.

When salty bromide mixes with chlorine at treatment plants, it can produce trihalomethanes linked to bladder cancer and miscarriages. Pennsylvania officials concerned about that toxic combination and facing pressure from the EPA blocked oil and gas companies from delivering their wastewater to the state’s treatment facilities in 2011, but federal regulations still allow the practice.

Public health advocates hailed the EPA’s “zero-discharge” proposal as a vital step to protecting drinking water nationwide in comments filed with the federal government last week. (by Jennifer A. Dlouhy. Houston Chronicle)