DEP pulls permit, to allow comment

Firm seeks to use fracking material on roads, sidewalks

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The state Department of Environmental Protection has rescinded a Marcellus Shale wastewater treatment permit that would have allowed a New Jersey company to spread chemically contaminated salts on roadways, sidewalks and fields statewide.

The DEP pulled the permit, issued in August to Integrated Water Technologies Inc., after admitting the required public notice about the permit did not accurately describe the permitted activity and the department hadn't fully considered the impact on the environment.

The DEP's decision to rescind the permit for the as-yet-to-be-built treatment plant in North Fayette was announced Saturday in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

It comes less than four months after Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future filed an appeal with the state Environmental Hearing Board that alleged the department had pulled a "switcheroo" by not accurately describing the permit in its public notice. The environmental advocacy organization also asked the hearing board to rescind the permit.

At that time, Kevin Sunday, a DEP spokesman, issued a statement that called PennFuture's appeal "baseless" and "an attempt to manufacture a controversy."

Mr. Sunday, in a statement issued Monday, said the DEP expects to republish the permit notice.

"We are, in the interest of public participation and transparency, providing the public an additional opportunity to comment on this permit," the statement said.

The DEP's original public notice described the permit narrowly -- for the treatment and processing of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations at Marcellus Shale gas wells. But after meeting privately with officials of the firm, the DEP issued a permit that allowed two chemical compounds originally classified as waste to be classified as "beneficial use" material that could be used as road and sidewalk de-icer, for roadway dust suppression and for soil stabilization in fields.

And, according to that altered permit, issued in August without public participation on those changes, those salty compounds -- crystallized sodium chloride and liquid calcium chloride -- also can contain limited amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury, ammonia, volatile organic compounds and diesel hydrocarbons.

Those are significant changes, according to PennFuture, and could impact public health, but no public comment or input was sought by the DEP.

"One of our jobs is to protect the public's right to participate in government decision making," said George Jugovic Jr., who served as DEP southwest region director in the Rendell administration and is now PennFuture president and chief executive officer. "DEP misrepresented what the permit was about and did so after extensive back-and-forth meetings with the company."

Integrated Water, based in Parsippany, N.J., could not be reached Monday for comment. In October, a spokesman said the company was in the process of getting financing for the wastewater treatment facility, which, according to plans, would be capable of processing between 500,000 and 1 million gallons of wastewater a day from the fracking process.

state - marcellusshale - environment

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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