PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Last month, KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan was the first to report about a danger to drinking water linked to natural gas drilling water.
Today, Governor Tom Corbett took action, ordering the drilling companies to stop taking that water to treatment plants.
Right now, treatment plants have been attempting to clean natural gas drilling water, discharging it into our rivers and streams. But under orders from the governor, that will soon change.
"We are calling on all Marcellus drilling operators to cease delivering water to these 15 publicly-owned treatment works and centralized treatment works," Kathy Gresh, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said.
The problem being addressed is a salty substance in the drilling water called bromide. When combined with chlorine in a drinking water treatment plant, it can form a dangerous disinfectant byproduct.
Bromides have been a problem in the Mon River, but as KDKA-TV reported, recently they have spiked in the Allegheny. Technicians at the Pittsburgh Water Authority have been concerned about rising levels of these byproducts in their finished drinking water.
"When disinfection byproducts enter our drinking water and we consume them over a long time period, they've been associated with a particular form of cancer, bladder cancer, and with a particular set of negative reproductive outcomes in terms of miscarriages and still births," Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jeanne VanBreisen said.
She was first to discover and document the high level of bromides and has called for changes. Today, she was gratified by the governor's order.
"I'm very happy too see that there is action being taken in response to our research," she said.
The drilling industry said it embraces VanBreisen's findings and will make the necessary changes.
"And we do believe that there is a role that the natural gas industry is playing in increasing these levels of bromide and are in a position to address that immediately," Kathryn Klaber, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said.
Environmentalists applauded today's action, but are looking for an all out ban on drilling waste water being discharged in our waterways.
PA Department Of Environmental Protection
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