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Environmental group sues company over waste dumped into Allegheny River

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 4:03 p.m.

An industrial treatment plant near Allegheny National Forest is dumping illegal amounts of salty, contaminant-laden wastewater from drillers into the Allegheny River in violation of state and federal laws, an environmental group charges in a federal lawsuit.

The state director of Clean Water Action said the group can't say whether Waste Treatment Corp.'s discharges into the river in Warren include wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of getting gas from the Marcellus shale.

“From our perspective, we just don't want it in the river,” said Myron Arnowitt, whose group asked a federal judge in the lawsuit filed on Monday to order Waste Treatment to stop discharging and fix any damage done to the river.

Waste Treatment did not return a call for comment.

The company has said it does not discharge fracking water, Arnowitt said. Marcellus drillers statewide announced a voluntary effort in 2011 to stop sending fracking water to such plants.

The company has a discharge permit dating to 2003, but Arnowitt said it does not cover the types of pollutants the company is discharging. The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing an application for a new permit.

“We're concerned that DEP is delaying action,” he said. “While they're trying to figure out what this permit should be, (the company) continues to discharge.”

A DEP spokesman said he could not comment.

The DEP in September filed notice in Commonwealth Court that it was suing Waste Treatment but did not include any specific complaints.

A DEP study last year found that pollutants reduced water quality downstream of the plant to levels that can't support aquatic life, leaving the water two to four times saltier than sea water, Arnowitt said. Warren is about 150 miles upriver from Pittsburgh.

Clean Water Action is suing under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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