U.S. Considers More Wastewater Recycling

March 4, 2020

The Trump administration moved on a water-recycling push 

On Feb. 27, 2020, the Trump administration moved on a water-recycling push, alleging it could get good use out of more of the wastewater generated by industries, cities and farms.

This also includes billions of barrels of wastewater generated by oil and gas fields each year.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler launched what they call an action plan for water reuse nationwide. 

Environmental groups are skeptical of the move, according to the Cherokee Phoenix. There are fears the administration will use the project to allow businesses to offload hazardous wastewater in ways that threaten drinking water sources and otherwise risk public health. 

Businesses including oil and gas developers are pushing for alternative methods to get rid of their increasing volumes of wastewater, however.

According to the EPA, the effort “frames the business case that water reuse is a viable and growing means of supporting our economy and improving the availability of freshwater.”

The plan outlines state, federal and tribal and local efforts looking at the policies, rules, research and possible uses in reclaiming and using more storm water, rainfall and wastewater left over from farms, factories and coolant systems, wastewater plants, and oil and gas production.

“Wastewater from the fracking process is certainly at the top of our minds,” said Wheeler.

It also includes finishing a study that will support consideration of potential regulatory and nonregulatory approaches to reusing oilfield wastewater by April, reported the Cherokee Phoenix

The plan emphasizes uses for some of the wastewater overall, including watering crops, treating it for use as drinking water, and refilling underground water aquifers being drained.

“The Trump administration is trying to prop up the oil and gas industry by greenlighting more ways to dump vast amounts of waste fluid that’s often toxic and even radioactive,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Cristina Tuser