As Disposal Wells Reach Capacity, EPA Considers Changes to Drilling Wastewater Standards

The oil and gas industries want to see wastewater regulations loosened as they consider pumping the water into streams and rivers.
October 22, 2018, 5am PDT | Camille Fink
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The Environmental Protection Agency is looking into making it easier for oil and gas companies to put wastewater from oil drilling into river and streams. The practice is currently permitted under federal law, but drillers rarely do it as the costs involved in treating the wastewater to meet mandated water standards is high.

“The primary question facing the EPA is whether water standards can be adjusted so oil and gas companies can economically treat wastewater to be pumped into the water supply without contaminating drinking water supplies or killing off local wildlife,” reports James Osborne.

The oil industry is facing the challenge of what to do with the large amounts of wastewater produced from drilling. Seismic and geological concerns about the effects of pumping the water back into the ground have forced operators to send wastewater to disposal sites.

Environmental advocates say the EPA does not have the scientific information about treating wastewater that it needs to make an informed decision. Still, oil and wastewater industry lobbyists are pushing for an ease on regulations. “Their primary case to the EPA is that the treated wastewater could provide a valuable resource for drought-ravaged water supplies in the western United States, with potential uses for agriculture and industry, and even drinking water supplies,” says Osborne.

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Published on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 in Houston Chronicle
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