Nov 17, 2008

Abington, Pa., Rejects Industrial Wastewater Proposal

Controversial proposal could have left township responsible for contaminated water

The Abington, Pa., board of supervisors has rejected a controversial proposal to accept industrial wastewater from natural gas drilling.

Township Manager Bill White said the combination of concern over meeting state wastewater quality standards and the drilling company's insistence on signing over full responsibility for the water convinced the board to reject the idea.

The water is a byproduct of a drilling procedure that calls for spraying millions of gallons into rock at exceedingly high pressure, fracturing the shale and releasing tiny pockets of natural gas.

The downside of this method is that the water picks up salts and potentially carcinogenic heavy metals, leaving drilling companies to grapple with the question of what to do with the "frac" water.

Cabot Oil & Gas wanted to send between 25,000 and 50,000 gal per day to the township's plant, township engineer Ned Slocum said in a report to the board at the Oct. 13 meeting and in a later interview.

Supervisors envisioned putting the water into holding tanks for testing, with the option of rejecting it, before releasing it into Abington's sewage treatment ponds, but Cabot wasn't amenable to that plan.

"Even if you found it was not acceptable...they were not responsible for it anymore," Mr. White said. "Once you took it, that was it. We're not going to be involved with anything like that."

Board members said they were interested in the money that might have been generated by the deal, which they had envisioned using to upgrade the aging treatment plant's infrastructure.

Supervisors are about to advertise next year's budget, and plan to raise taxes for the estimated 40% of residents who use the township's sewer system, White said.
"Our liners in the lagoons are going bad," White said. "Our equipment is wearing out."