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EPA approves permit for fracking wastewater disposal well in Plum Borough

EPA approves permit for fracking wastewater disposal well in Plum Borough
EPA approves permit for fracking wastewater disposal well in Plum Borough 01:35

PLUM (KDKA) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a permit for a new fracking injection well in Plum Borough after a lengthy review of the proposed project and dozens of public comments.

Tucked away off Old Leechburg Road in Plum Borough sits Penneco Environmental Solutions' wastewater disposal facility.

The EPA approved a permit for a conventional natural gas well at the site to be converted to a commercial disposal injection well, named SEDAT 4A. It will be the second injection well at the site.

The new permit was approved despite opposition from people who live in Plum, some borough officials and environmental groups.

"I wasn't surprised that the EPA approved it. Oftentimes the EPA's process is really narrowly focused on the Safe Drinking Water Act, so they are not accounting all of the local issues that we've seen on the ground with this well," said Gillian Graber, the executive director of Protect PT, a community group.

People who live near the site don't want another well in their backyard.

"The people that live near this site have experienced heavy air pollution events, where they have this acrid chemical smell when they open up the tanks that wafts down onto their property," Graber said.

Protect PT has been voicing concerns over the wells for years.

Graber said they question the integrity of the well casings and they're worried about possible water pollution.

"Regionally, the biggest concern is drinking water. I think locally, the people that live on that street and live near the site, the contaminated air and truck traffic is huge. I mean, this is a rural road and there are hundreds of trucks going to and from the site," she said.

According to the final permit, the well will inject into the Murrysville sandstone formation.

The EPA reviewed the plans submitted by Delmont-based Penneco Environmental Solutions and there was a review of public comments, which were made in 2022.

Penneco's Senior Vice President, D. Marc Jacobs, told KDKA-TV on Monday, "Penneco and the regulating authorities take very seriously the concerns of residents and borough officials" and that the "EPA has addressed all of the public concerns and inherent operational safeguards in their responsiveness summary to public comments." 

The EPA's response summary can be found here.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection still has to give approval on a change of use permit and a waste transfer station permit.

Graber is hoping that doesn't happen.

"We should be talking to DEP about the fact that the community does not want this, the fact that it's going to contaminate our air and water. And we here in Pennsylvania have a right to clean air and water," Graber said.

Graber also said there is a zoning issue that needs to be resolved. She will be joining Plum Borough leaders at a court hearing on Oct. 10. Plum Borough appealed its zoning hearing board's decision to approve the second injection well.

As for the EPA approved permit, Graber said Protect PT will review the EPA's response to comments and evaluate whether they will appeal the permit or not.

Anyone who submitted a written comment during the public comment period has 30 days to file a petition for appeal with the EPA Environmental Appeals Board. Documents to appeal can be submitted online

In the EPA's response to public comments, the agency said it has worked to ensure it's issuing a final permit with conditions necessary to prevent the migration of fluids into underground sources of drinking water in order to protect the drinking water sources.

The EPA also said the final permit requires that the injection well be equipped with automatic shut-off devices which would be activated in the event of a mechanical integrity failure and that the permit requires Penneco to report to EPA within 24 hours any permit noncompliance which may endanger, or which has endangered, human health or the environment.

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