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Energy prices went up again in 2008. Drillers created 29,000 jobs for the people. And State and local governments offered $240 million worth of taxes (Sapien 2009). And modern technology was there to realize the dream.
When asked about the initiative's threat to human health, the DEP at first assured all sectors that TDS were not generally considered a major risk. In 2008 alone, at least 4,000 new oil and gas wells were drilled. The frenzy sidestepped the greater and graver responsibility of disposal of huge wastewater. The new oil and gas wells produce approximately 9 million gallons of wastewater a day in Pennsylvania alone. This volume was expected to increase to at least 19 million this year. This volume is greater than that what all of the State's waterways combined can safely absorb, DEP itself says. But in the wake of continued complaints and apprehensions, it advised consumers to switch to bottled water to drink and for cooking. Some alarmed sewage operators have stopped using wastewater whatsoever (Sapien 2009).
Pennsylvania State environmental officials proposed amendments to the State Code include a daily maximum TDS effluent standard and concentration threshold to protect waterways (Staaf). These standards should be strictly imposed. At present, these are exceeded. Transparency and the complete monitoring and tracking of wastewater fluids in all stages of use should be also be strictly enforced. The implementation cost of these amendments at $.025 per gallon should be covered by the industry. Taxpayers should be spared of the additional burden (Saaf 2010).
For its part, the State of New York needs to adopt regulations on reporting on hydraulic fracturing. Reports should include the extent of fracturing, the volume of remaining fluids in the fractured formation and the complete disclosure of chemicals in the fracturing fluids. State regulatory agencies should also set up buffer zones in order to protect surface water resources and reduce negative health impacts. Regulations should cover location of well sites, storage tank batteries, compressors and injection well sites. They should extend from water bodies, wetlands, unique environmental areas, aquifer recharge zones, and communities.
Operations at the Marcellus Shale have become a source of contamination of groundwater aquifers. This is more apparent than the announcement of New York Governor Paterson that no reports of contamination from the natural gas drilling operations at Marcellus Shale have been made. DEC themselves found radioactive content in 13 analyzed samples of wastewater at almost 300 times beyond safety limit. DEC also admitted it could not handle additional TDS and other contaminants in wastewater. Most of the wells at the shale use the hydraulic fracturing process, which generates TDS. The drilling in Pennsylvania along turns out about 9 million gallons of wastewater a day. The volume is expected to increase to at least 19 million gallons this year alone. Experts say this volume equals all that of the State's waterways combined. This is the magnitude of the contamination problem involved in the drilling operations of the shale.
The problem may not be as large as imagined. Embarking on Marcellus shale is proportionate to increasing gas prices and the recession. The excitement over the potential of the shale to cover the nation's gas demand for more than 20 years is solid motivation. Add to this the thousands of jobs accorded by drilling and the more than $200 million worth of State and local taxes poured as incentives. Environmental officials have lined up measures to address the contamination issue in the form of amendments to the State Code in the case of Pennsylvania and stricter regulations in the case of New York. DEP will also try out the AlteraRain desalination system, which can turn wastewater into clean water, specifically in Marcellus Shale (NETL, 2011).
Currently, operations at the Marcellus Shale have become as a source of contamination of groundwater aquifers. All the stakeholders -- local and stage officials, environmental groups, the industry and the communities -- admit to this reality until proposed measures effectively contain or reverse the situation.
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