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Radioactive pollution in Allegheny River not from fracking, DEP and treatment plant say

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

Regulators are working on an environmental agreement with a Warren County water treatment plant targeted by a federal lawsuit and accusations it is polluting the Allegheny River, the state Department of Environmental Protection said on Tuesday.

Testing found radiation in the water 150 miles upstream of Pittsburgh. Waste Treatment Corp. in Warren said it is trying to find the source and contends it is not coming from fracking waste.

“We have to do something different,” said Michael Arnold, vice president of operations at the company. “We're trying to work in the same direction.”

The environmental group Clean Water Action this week sued Waste Treatment in federal court, accusing the company of dumping illegal amounts of wastewater from oil and gas drilling into the river near Allegheny National Forest.

Arnold and DEP spokesman Gary Clark said the company is not discharging wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process used to get gas from Marcellus shale. The company sends that water to a nearby injection well.

The DEP has said conventional drilling and fracking can produce wastewater containing radioactive pollutants. Waste Treatment said it stopped treating and discharging fracking wastewater in 2011.

The DEP in September issued a violation notice against Waste Treatment based on biological studies last year that show it “failed to control discharge to protect aquatic life in the Allegheny River.” The agency then filed a notice in Commonwealth Court indicating it intended to sue Waste Treatment.

Clean Water Action said it worried DEP was not doing enough to stop Waste Treatment from polluting the river while the agency reviewed a new discharge permit application.

Clark said the agency is working with the company to write a consent decree that would stop the violations. The DEP will publicize the decree before submitting it to Commonwealth Court for approval, he said.

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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