Pennsylvania Waste Treatment Facility sued for alleged discharges into Allegheny River

On October 28, 2013, the environmental group Clean Water Action filed a U.S. District Court lawsuit against Waste Treatment Corporation (WTC) alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, including illegal discharges of 200,000 gallons per day of drilling wastewater into the Allegheny River. Clean Water Action claims that these daily discharges contain harmful concentrations of chloride, lithium, strontium, radium-226, radium-228, and other chemicals.

Pointing to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and its January 10, 2013 Aquatic Biology Investigation of the plant’s discharges on the river, the group stated that high levels of salts, metals and radioactive compounds were found downstream – more than 100 times the levels found upstream of the plant. The investigation indicates that the plant puts over 125,000 pounds of salt into the river every day. Besides contaminating the water, these pollutants are building up in the river bed sediment where the DEP found radioactivity and oily residue, which is, according to Clean Water Action, endangering the Northern Riffleshell mussel, fish, and other river inhabitants.

The environmental group wants WTC to install proper technology to remove the contaminants before discharging any wastewater into the river. In addition, Clean Water Action claims that WTC’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from 2003 does not authorize WTC to discharge oil and gas wastewater.

In response to the lawsuit, WTC’s vice president of operations stated that WTC has not processed or discharged any shale gas wastewater into the Allegheny River since May 2011 when the DEP requested all drilling operators not to dispose of their wastewater at 15 municipal treatment plants, including WTC’s facilities.