Landfill Has No Plans to Accept Solidified Brine
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A three-page advisory issued in September by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that raises the possibility of landfills in the state accepting solidified brine is a nonstarter for at least one such operation in the Mahoning Valley, its division manager said Tuesday.
“The rules are very specific,” said Mike Heher, division manager at Republic Services' Carbon Limestone Landfill in Poland Township. “Landfills cannot take brine, and we don’t.”
Brine is the term commonly given to wastewater that results from hydraulic fracturing produced at gas and oil drilling sites. The water, as well as other oilfield liquids, contain contaminants and are disposed of mostly through deep injection wells throughout the state.
Although the advisory acknowledges that these liquids cannot be transported to landfills, these landfills could accept the waste were it to be solidified and approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
“We've been doing solidification here since 1995,” Heher said. “We’ve never solidified brine, and have absolutely no intention of doing it.”
The three-page EPA advisory stated that as energy companies accelerate drilling activity in the Utica shale, landfills in Ohio and neighboring states are likely to experience an increase in solid wastes from these drilling operations.
The EPA letter, signed by Pamela Allen, chief of the EPA's Division of Minerals and Waste Management, also said, “Other wastes associated with shale development, including oilfield fluids and brine, will also be generated in large volumes, and there is an increasing interest from drilling companies to manage these liquid wastes.
“Because solid waste landfills are prohibited from accepting bulk liquids and waste streams not passing the paint-filter test, these waste streams would require solidification or other processing in order to be received for disposal.”
On Sunday, the Akron Beacon Journal published a story (CLICK TO READ) largely based on the EPA advisory that left open the possibility of solidified liquid waste from drilling sites being shipped to landfills across the state.
Heher reported that the only waste from well sites that the landfill is permitted to accept are drill cuttings, that is, rock and soil that has been carried to the surface during the drilling operation.
Also, the Ohio EPA does a very good job of monitoring landfills and making sure that they're not accepting brine water, Heher said. "They do a tremendous job checking and making sure that everybody knows the rules,” he emphasized.
Currently, brine is disposed of through deep injection wells that pump the water as much as 8,000 feet below the earth, where it is stored.
D&L Energy Inc. of Youngstown, which once operated an injection well linked to a series of earthquakes in the Youngstown area in late 2011, is drilling a new well in North Lima.
American Water Management Services Inc. has obtained permits to develop two wastewater injection wells in Weathersfield Township in Trumbull County.
There are 179 active injection wells in Ohio, according to ODNR records.
The EPA letter noted that under Ohio law, the chief of ODNR's Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has the power to approve other disposal methods for brine water and oilfield fluids.
While that caveat leaves open the possibility of ODNR approving methods where brine is solidified and transported to landfills, Heher says it’s unlikely because of the costs associated with the disposal process.
“It could be possible,” he said, as he noted that it’s immaterial to the Carbon Limestone Landfill since that operation does not, and will not, accept brine.
Community activist Lynn Anderson of Youngstown said that were ODNR to approve such a measure, it could present a serious threat to the environment and the public's health all over the state.
“It’s all very dangerous,” she said, noting that some of the material in the Utica is also contaminated by small levels of radiation that naturally occurs within the rock formation.
She compares it to the former practices of nuclear energy companies that carelessly disposed of hazardous waste materials that resulted in environmental repercussions in communities across the country.
“Here is yet another industry that has a waste product that we cannot handle,” Anderson said. “That's why it’s not sustainable or viable.”
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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