EPA Finalizes New Clean Water Act Rule for Fracking Wastewaters
Put simply, onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction, also known as “hydraulic fracturing” or “fracking” to the general public, involves injecting water and brines into the earth at high pressure to extract the oil trapped underground. Direct wastewater discharges from UOG activities are already covered under the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The new rule applies to “indirect” discharges, those treated at a POTW before being returned to US waterways.
Under the new Clean Water Act rule, wastewaters from hydraulic fracturing operations must be treated before being sent to a POTW. This is due to the unconventional constituents sometimes found in the wastewaters, which are atypical for POTWs set up to handle municipal, not industrial, wastewaters. Some of the constituents found in UOG wastewaters include:
- Total dissolved solids (TDS),
- Organic and inorganic chemicals,
- Metals, and
- Naturally occurring radioactive materials.
Want to see the data that led US EPA to this decision? Check out this technical document at EPA.gov.
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