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Groups Eye Hauling Well Wastewater

August 3, 2008

By Rory Sweeney, The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Aug. 3–In addition to anticipated jobs and profits from natural-gas drilling, water usage should increase as regional operations get under way.

That could mean more income for water haulers and sanitary authorities.

Drilling companies have been ramping up activities because an underground rock layer known as Marcellus Shale is expected to contain billions of dollars in natural gas deposits.

Each well-drilling operation could require up to 1 million gallons of water. While the water can be reused, it eventually must be disposed of at a treatment facility.

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority hasn’t accepted any well-drilling wastewater, but it is interested.

“If it’s not hazardous to our plant, and if DEP approves us as a disposal site, we would consider it,” executive director Fred DeSanto said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently sent a letter to sanitary authorities advising them that wastewater from the drilling can be harmful to certain treatment systems and cause them to violate their discharge permits. The water must be tested and approved by DEP.

Such contracts could be lucrative, but have potential problems. WVSA, the major wastewater treatment facility in Luzerne County, charges 3.5 cents per gallon for treatment of up to 2 million gallons and 3 cents for quantities beyond that.

That could help offset the estimated $6 million in upgrades the authority said it needs to meet Chesapeake Bay watershed agreement discharge standards.

That quick influx, however, creates a problem.

Sandy Bartosiewicz, WVSA’s financial and budget officer, said the authority has never been in a situation where it accepted “that amount of volume at one time.”

It will also have an impact on wastewater haulers.

“The volume of the material is significant,” said Chris Ravenscroft, president of Honesdale-based Koberlein Environmental Services. “I don’t think there’s any one company out there that has the capacity for the volume. … So I think there’s a large volume of work that will be generated.”

He said his company is actively seeking energy companies that are looking for haulers and treatment facilities. Gas companies are investigating drilling possibilities through the Marcellus region, which stretches from upstate New York through northern and western Pennsylvania, including the upper fringe of Luzerne County, and down into Virginia. Several wells have been drilled in this region, according to DEP spokesman Mark Carmon.

Cabot Oil & Gas Co. announced recently a well in Susquehanna County became its first to generate income.

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