Suspected Frac Water Dump Under Investigation in Greene
Washington PA Observer Reporter
13 October 2014
by Tara Kinsell, Staff Writer
WAYNESBURG – An investigation was launched into the dumping of
3,000 to 4,000 gallons of suspected hydraulic fracturing water
into Waynesburg Borough’s sewer system between 8 and 9 a.m. Sept.
When personnel at the Waynesburg Sewage Treatment Plant in
Meadowlark Park noticed a spike in the flow coming through the
system, borough officials were contacted.
Assistant Waynesburg Borough Manager Bryan Cumberledge, who ran a
report of the flow meters to determine where the surge may have
originated, said Sam McCullough, manager of the sewage treatment
plant, saw a milky substance entering the plant following the
spike. Its quantity, color and familiar odor struck a chord with
McCullough as the plant previously accepted gas well water for
treatment for more than a year, Cumberledge said.
As a result of his analysis of the flow meters, Cumberledge was
able to narrow the origin of the dumping to two of the seven zones
that comprise the borough’s sewer system, but one of those two
zones encompasses a majority of the borough’s north side and parts
of the east and south sides, thus making it more difficult for him
to find the specific point where it took place.
Cumberledge said since the spike in the system occurred during
daylight hours, he has been inspecting manhole covers where
someone might be able to go unnoticed.
John Poister, a spokesman with the state Department of
Environmental Protection, said his agency was not aware of the
incident but it would be sending someone from clean water
enforcement to look into the situation. Poister said the plant was
not obligated to alert the DEP if this did not create a problem
with the plant’s equipment, impacted its operations, was too much
to process, etc.
“We are going to send an inspector down,” he said. “We are
concerned by the fact that someone was able to dump this amount
into the system unnoticed.”
Cumberledge said there are not many spots in the system that are
hidden from view. “Something like this would likely raise some
type of suspicion,” he said. He also is considering that a
building large enough for a truck to pull into might have a drain
that was used to tap into the sewer system.
Poister said that is not out of the question.
“Two years ago, we prosecuted a lawn-service company that was
dumping unused fertilizer down a drain in a garage that went into
the storm system,” he said. In that case, roughly 1,000 gallons of
fertilizer went from the storm drain into a tributary of Thompson
Run in Monroeville. “Obviously, we don’t want it (industrial
waste) going into the waterways.”
Waynesburg Borough police Chief Rob Toth told his officers to be
aware of suspicious activity around manholes and other access
points for the sewer system. “If it happens again, hopefully we
will be there to catch the person responsible,” he said.
In 2009, the borough quit accepting gas well water when the DEP
ordered all treatment plants to drastically reduce the amount of
wastewater being accepted for treatment following contamination
found in the Monongahela River.
New treatment requirements initiated at that time made it too
costly for the Waynesburg plant to accept the water.
Beginning in 2011, the DEP requested municipal authorities and
originators of wastewater from the drilling side not use sewage
treatment plants. “No matter how good the Waynesburg plant, or any
plant is, they are just not equipped to handle and treat frack
water,” Poister said.
Poister also said if this turns out to be hydraulic fracturing
water, the responsible party could face criminal charges.