Allegheny River Town Debates Fracking Water Treatment Plant

Opponents cite environmental risks, supporters hope the facility will boost the economy of a struggling community.
March 25, 2018, 9am PDT | Katharine Jose
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A bridge over the Allegheny River above its confluence with Mill Creek in Coudersport, Pennsylvania.
Doug Kerr

In a sprawling column for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Don Hopey reports on the political, cultural and environmental issues surrounding a private company's proposed facility to treat wastewater from fracking operations at an existing sewage treatment plant along the Allegheny River. 

"The proposal, which the state Department of Environmental Protection is considering permitting, would allow Epiphany to accept and store truckloads of wastewater — up to 400,000 gallons a day — from shale gas drillers. That water would be injected into a natural gas heated-evaporation and distillation boiler where salts and other chemical contaminants would be removed. Up to 42,000 gallons a day of the remaining water would be piped through the municipal sewage treatment plant, then discharged into the Allegheny River." 

Those with serious questions about the project include a typical assortment of conservation organizations, as well as a notable number of government entities including the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, the New York State DEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  

It's also strongly opposed by the Seneca Nation, whose members have not forgotten the events preceding the construction of the Kinzua Dam, nor have they forgotten that in 1974 their land was  "inundated by radioactive waste" from a processing site in West Valley, New York. 

Supporters say the fracking operations need somewhere to put wastewater, Hopey writes, and "also note that a more robust drilling presence could help fill the economic hole created when Coudersport-based Adelphia Communications Corp., then the fifth-largest cable company in the U.S., went bankrupt in 2002." 

Conflict between the environmental risks and potential economic benefits of fracking have been at the center of the debate across the country. New York State banned fracking, only to have one of its more economically depressed regions threaten to secede. 

And though the EPA has determined that fracking can threaten drinking water, it's unlikely the agency will do much about it under the Trump Administration

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, March 18, 2018 in Pittsburg Post-Gazette
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