Ohio EPA: Cities Not Permitted to Treat Wastewater



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Treating Brine in Wastewater Treatment Plants Not an Option, According to Ohio EPA

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced yesterday that cities cannot treat wastewater from natural gas wells in their sewage plants, cutting off a substantial source of potential revenue for local governments.

The agency says it is concerned that the wastewater poses a pollution risk and could negatively impact drinking water.

The decision announced yesterday to the public and in letters to both state and local officials directly impacts the communities of East Liverpool and Warren, both of which had hoped to reap significant financial rewards from the treatment of industry wastewater.

In January 2011, the Ohio EPA authorized the city of Warren, in connection with a joint agreement with Lisbon, Ohio-based Patriot Water Treatment, to accept and treat as many as 100,000 gallons of wastewater generated by natural gas production. According to the company?s president, the company had already hired 45 people and invested $3,000,000 to begin the process of transporting wastewater to the Warren facility.

Ohio EPA, in an abrupt about-face, now states that it will not renew Warren?s authorization to accept the wastewater when its permit comes up for renewal next year.

"It's a complete surprise," said Andrew Bloksom, president of Patriot. "If this was their intent, we wouldn't have spent all the money that we've invested or have all of these families who are relying on our business."

Tom Angelo, director of Warren's wastewater treatment plant, had hoped to charge as much as $150,000 a year to take the brine. He stated that after 4 1/2 months of operation there have been no demonstrated impacts to the environment or the treatment plant resulting from the acceptance of the wastewater.

The Ohio EPA's letter states that the options for disposing of brine resulting from oil and gas production are expressly limited by statute to injection wells, road surface application, enhanced recovery operations, and ?other methods approved by the ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources], Chief of Mineral Resource Management for testing or implementing a new technology or method of disposal.? According to Ohio EPA, ?disposing directly into a surface water body, either directly or via a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW)? is not an option.

Should you have any questions about this alert, please contact Armando Benincasa. For general questions involving energy law, please contact the Energy Team at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.


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