Due to a shortsighted exemption in state law made thirty years ago, Pennsylvanians are exposed to potentially toxic and radioactive waste produced by the oil and gas industry. To ensure our public safety we must urge our state legislators to support and pass legislation closing this loophole.
Oil and gas wastewater contain proprietary chemical additives, heavy metals, radioactive elements (Radium-226, Radium-228) and salts that are toxic to our health and environment. Yet drilling waste is insufficiently treated as “residual waste” under the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) which excludes oil and gas companies from the requirement to thoroughly test or treat waste prior to disposal in municipal landfills.
When rain falls on these landfills, water passes through the collected waste, dissolving soluble materials along the way; creating what is called leachate. When collection chambers reach capacity, leachate is sent to wastewater treatment facilities for treatment before being discharged into local water bodies. Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to process toxic and radioactive elements yet there are presently 16 wastewater treatment facilities in the state that process leachate from landfills that accept oil and gas waste.
State Representative Sara Innamorato and State Senator Katie Muth have companion bills (HB 1353/SB 644, HB1354/SB 645, HB 1355/SB 646) to address this issue by including drilling waste in the SWMA’s definition of “hazardous waste”, repealing the language that exempts the oil and gas industry from complying with the provisions of the SWMA , subjecting oil and gas waste stream to the most stringent testing before leaving a well site and prohibiting landfills from accepting or transferring this type of waste to wastewater treatment facilities.
We need to prioritize the health of our citizens, workers, and environment over companies who make billions of dollars from our communities’ natural resources while privatizing the profits and socializing the risk.