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Pitt Researchers Test Waste Water From Marcellus Shale Drilling

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- There are new concerns about the level of treatment for waste water from Marcellus Shale drilling.

Every day, tanker trucks offload drilling waste water to be cleaned at a plant in Josephine, Indiana County.

The private operators say the water is stripped of its radioactive materials and heavy metal contaminants and discharged into the nearby Blacklick Creek tributary of the Allegheny River basin.

But in a report to be released Tuesday, University of Pittsburgh researchers contend that it's far from clean.

"This plant isn't doing what it needs to do to properly treat oil and gas waste water going into Blacklick Creek that we have documented that they are very high levels of heavy metals," Dan Volz, with the University of Pittsburgh, said.

Professor Volz says when they tested discharged water, they found levels of heavy metals such as barium and strontium in levels as much as a dozen times above clean water standards, posing a threat to people, trout and other aquatic life.

He called on the state Department of Environmental Protection to take immediate action.

"The DEP should immediately revoke the permit for this facility and not allow them to take Marcellus Shale gas waste water," Volz said. "It's evident that their treatment process is inefficient and that would be the ultimate public health remedy would be to close this plant down, yes."

KDKA's Andy Sheehan visited the plant just two weeks ago and in a tour of the facility, owner Paul Hart demonstrated how heavy metal and solids are removed from the water.

"When you find out the actual quality of the discharges, when you do an actual analysis of the rivers, when you come to facilities like ours, people have found that there is a much better handle on this than what they realized," he said.

In a statement on Monday, Hart again said his discharges are not in keeping with drinking water standards nor should be. Hart said the levels discharged into the creek are in compliance with state standards and have minimal impact on the water basin.

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University of Pittsburgh

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