New use for mine drainage
The news story “Mine drainage cleanup in Western Pa. an expensive, slow process” (Jan. 20 and TribLIVE.com) detailed a long-standing problem in the state. There's an exciting new development in regulations for restoring the state's polluted streams from abandoned mine drainage (AMD): a change in liability for natural gas operators to use AMD in hydraulic fracturing.
AMD is caused by historic mining practices, which were unregulated until the 1970s.
Hydraulic fracturing requires injecting millions of gallons of water for each well into the Earth below the freshwater table. Some of the water is recycled, some is trucked in and some is from nearby water supplies with extensive environmental precautions in place.
In the past, natural gas operators opted not to use AMD for their water needs due to extensive treatment requirements dictating maintenance after they were finished using it. The newly released guidance from the state Department of Environmental Protection removes previous regulatory hurdles for natural gas operators as they incorporate a beneficial reuse of AMD.
Pennsylvania has more miles of AMD-damaged streams than any other state. Natural gas companies are ready to take blighted resources damaged in the past and turn them into cleaner, greener natural resources — benefiting the many communities affected by AMD.
The writer is a vice president in the Robinson office of the Lancaster-based engineering consulting firm RETTEW Associates Inc. (rettew.com).