HARRISBURG – The Department of Environmental Protection announced it will publish in this week’s Pennsylvania Bulletin a revised general permit for the processing and beneficial use of liquid waste from oil and gas well sites.
“This permit encourages recycling of wastewater by providing regulatory clarity, consistency and predictability,” said DEP Secretary Mike Krancer. “This permit replaces three existing general permits, which will improve efficiency and better protect our waterways.”
The revised Residual Waste Beneficial Use general permit (WMGR123) encourages using the closed-loop process, which is the reuse of liquid waste after it has been treated or processed. In this case, the liquid waste includes brine, flowback water, drilling muds and stormwater.
The permit applies to oil and gas sites and other related infrastructure. This kind of reuse minimizes water withdrawals and impacts on Pennsylvania’s valuable water resources.
The revised permit consolidates into one — and renders redundant — three existing general permits, WMGR119, WMGR121 and WMGR123.
The revised permit also establishes water quality criteria that, if met, allow the processed water to be managed, stored and transported as freshwater. Facilities will test regularly for 39 constituents, including strontium, barium, total dissolved solids and radiation, in order to demonstrate that the processed wastewater meets the freshwater criteria. The criteria are based on drinking water standards and in-stream water quality standards. The permit specifies that the processed wastewater may only be used to develop or hydraulically fracture an oil or gas well.
Wastewater that does not meet the freshwater criteria must continue to be managed, stored and transported as residual waste, a classification of industrial waste. Storage of such waste must take place in tanks or impoundment pits that use liners, leak detection monitoring and other measures to contain any spills, leaks or overflows.
There are 10 facilities operating under the prior general permits for processing and beneficially using oil and gas wastewater. These facilities will continue to operate under the new permit. Ten additional facilities have pending permit applications with DEP.
The agency published a draft version of this permit for public comment in August 2011. The revised permit was developed after considering approximately 80 comments submitted in response.