PA Landfill Fined for Accepting Toxic Fracking Wastewater

by Duane Nichols on February 22, 2020

Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill in Rostraver, PA

PA-DEP fines landfill near Pittsburgh for taking in fracking waste — Agreement includes plan to clean up liquid waste

Article by Reid Frazier, PA StateImpact, February 18, 2020

The Pennsylvania Department of Envirommental Protection has fined a Westmoreland County landfill that had been passing pollution from oil and gas drilling waste into a local sewage treatment plant.

The fine is part of a consent agreement with Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill to find a solution for the plant’s leachate, the liquid waste formed when rain and moisture percolates through the landfill.

As part of the settlement, the landfill will pay a $24,000 fine and reduce the amount of waste it generates by closing up part of the landfill’s open area and installing an evaporator and other treatment equipment for the liquid waste.

Ro Rozier, a spokeswoman for the landfill, said in an emailed statement the company was “pleased with the terms and conditions” of the agreement. Rozier said the company was “committed to investing substantial amounts of capital to purchase and install technology and equipment capable of treating and evaporating the leachate generated from the landfill on site. We are confident that our plan for onsite treatment and evaporation will resolve the landfill’s recent leachate disposal issues.”

In May, a Fayette County judge ordered the landfill to stop sending its liquid waste to the Belle Vernon Municipal Authority’s sewage treatment plant, which had reported problems meeting water quality standards for its treated sewage.

The sewage plant sought the injunction because the leachate it was receiving from the landfill was high in salts and radioactive materials found in drilling waste, which the landfill had been taking for several years.

The landfill’s own waste reports showed the leachate it was sending the treatment plant had an “oil like” or “petroleum sheen.”

StateImpact Pennsylvania reported in September a loophole in state and federal waste disposal laws allowed the landfill to send its untreated leachate to the Belle Vernon sewage plant. PA-DEP officials told Belle Vernon’s operators to continue accepting the leachate, and stipulated that the landfill would pay any fine incurred by the sewage plant for exceeding pollution standards for its discharge into the Monongahela River.

Tests showed the contaminants, including radium, were exiting the treatment plant and going into the river, a drinking water source for hundreds of thousands of people. The PA-DEP has insisted no drinking water sources were put in danger by the discharge.

The agency says it wants the landfill to find a local disposal site for the waste to cut down on truck traffic from the landfill. For now, the waste will be sent to sewage plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Todd Musser, director of wastewater operations for the Altoona Water Authority, one of the plants currently receiving the leachate, says his plant has had no problems meeting its water quality standards since it began taking the leachate about three or four months ago.

He said the plant receives 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of leachate per day, a small fraction of the 12.5 million gallons of sewage a day his plant can accept. The Belle Vernon plant treats just under 1 million gallons a day.

“With the volume we treat here at Altoona Water Authority — it’s a non-issue,” Musser said.

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See also: How did fracking contaminants end up in the Monongahela River? A loophole in the law might be to blame | StateImpact Pennsylvania, September 11, 2019

The landfill was sending more leachate than the treatment plant was allowed to accept. This because about 40 percent of the landfill’s waste since 2010 had been solid oil and gas waste. That included drill cuttings — dirt and rocks that companies dig up to get to the region’s gas-rich shale beds. Those beds are naturally rich in salts and metals. It turned out, the salts in the leachate were hurting the bacteria bugs in the treatment plant sewage system.

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WVU Woodburn Circle (Main Campus)

University student organizations to rally against Longview Power Plant

Article by Gabriella Brown, WVU Daily Athenaeum, February 20, 2020

Student organizations will rally together at Woodburn Circle on Saturday at noon to protest against the construction of a natural gas and solar power plant.

The organizations include WVU Sierra Club Coalition, Mountaineers for Green Design and the Sunrise Movement Greater Morgantown.

Stephen Nelson, chief operating officer of Longview, said the $1.1 billion gas and solar power plant will use regionally produced Marcellus gas, and the solar facility will be one of the largest in Appalachia. Part of the project will be located on Longview’s property in Pennsylvania and part will be in Maidsville, West Virginia.

Alexis Yost, a junior landscape architecture student and member of the Mountaineers for Green Design, said the construction of this plant could have irreversible environmental implications, including water contamination and the release of four million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. She said the construction of the plant poses its own set of problems, such as pipeline installation and deforestation.

She said few people within the Morgantown community are aware of the situation. “The more you talk about it to people the more you realize no one knows that this is a really big deal,” Yost said.

Jonah Kone, an Americorps Volunteer in Service to America in the WVU Land Use Clinic, said based on most scientific predictions, if carbon emissions are not reduced within 13 years, catastrophic impacts of climate change will become inescapable. He said this plant would simply add fuel to the fire.

“For one, the Sierra Club and the Sunrise Movement are adamantly against any new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Kone said. “The reality is renewable energy can be competitive in West Virginia. We have a ton of untapped potential.”

Kone said with this project in particular, one of the biggest problems is related to the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program, meaning the company agrees to pay a set stipend of fees to the county government in exchange for a property tax exemption.

If approved, Kone said by being a part of the PILOT program, Longview would be granted a $200 million property tax and business inventory tax break. In order for this to pass, he said the Board of Education and the county commission will first need to approve it.

Kone said the Sierra Club had its economics policy advisor do the numbers on the plan. He said the club found around 75% of the taxes the plants would normally be required to pay would be exempt.

Nelson said Longview Power plans to take part in the PILOT program, and it will provide $2 million in PILOT payments and taxes in Monongalia County every year.

He said this one of many benefit’s the plant will bring to Monongalia County, including creating thousands of jobs during construction and during the plant’s operation.

“Employee compensation, direct, indirect and induced, will exceed $200 million,” Nelson said in an email. “In full operation, the gas and solar facilities will add approximately 35 new, high skill/high wage jobs with a payroll of around $2 million.”

In response to the protest that will occur on campus, Nelson said Longview Power is committed to producing clean energy.

“Longview is one of the cleanest burning coal-fired electric generation units in the world and our proposed gas facility, once operational, will be as well,” Nelson said. “We are committed to clean fossil and renewable development. We hope folks will take the time to learn more about us.”

Yost said even if the rally has a small turnout, it is important to the environmentalist groups to get the word out about the situation. “If this still passes, young people need to vote,” Yost said.

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See also: Longview Power Proposed Gas-Fired Power Plant | Sierra Club, Background Information & Fact Sheet, 2019

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Practices and Policies for Global Sustainability — Summer Short Course

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