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EPA Finalizes New Clean Water Act Rule for Fracking Wastewaters

Posted on 6/28/2016 by Roger Marks

In the June 28 Federal Register, US EPA posted a Final Rule to implement pretreatment standards for wastewaters sent from onshore unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extracting facilities to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

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.
Waterwater storage tanks at oil and gas extraction site

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.
The new Clean Water Act Final Rule is effective August 29, 2016.

Want to see the data that led US EPA to this decision? Check out this technical document at EPA.gov.

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Tags: Act, Clean, new rules:, EPA,, Water

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