2 DAs obtain injunction against municipal authority, warn of pollution to Mon River
Two county district attorneys are intervening in a dispute between a local municipal authority and a Rostraver landfill over concerns fracking waste is polluting the Monongahela River.
On Saturday, Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone and Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower announced they had obtained a temporary injunction against the Municipal Authority of Belle Vernon and the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill, prohibiting the discharge of contaminated effluent into the Monongahela River.
“What this addresses is the water that flows from the landfill to the municipal authority and goes straight through to the Monongahela River,” Bower said.
The municipal authority accepts fracking wastewater from the landfill via pipeline but recently became concerned it could no longer treat the wastewater and stay in compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit.
Last week, the municipal authority board voted to terminate its contract with the landfill, effective June 1, and no longer accept leachate because testing revealed it contained chemicals known to be carcinogens, according to a statement from Vittone.
The board had been advised by legal counsel that continued acceptance of discharges from the landfill would subject the municipal authority to liability.
But Vittone and Bower contend in the civil action seeking an injunction that the wastewater leachate, if it goes untreated, will pollute the Monongahela River.
“The people of Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Fayette counties have a right to clean drinking and recreational water from the Monongahela River,” Vittone said. “(We) are seeking this temporary injunction to immediately stop leachate from being discharged by anyone into the Monongahela River. It is deeply disturbing to know that contaminants could be polluting such important waters.”
Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Steven Leskinen signed an order granting the temporary injunction Saturday.
The source of the contaminants is drill cuttings and mud from unconventional drilling operations in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to the complaint.
“These cuttings are buried within the landfill. When rain occurs, water will leach through the cuttings and become contaminated with the chemicals from the cuttings,” the complaint said.
In the spring of 2018, the municipal authority noticed its discharges into the Monongahela River violated its NPDES permit standards for certain chemicals, including ammonia-nitrogen. The problem was determined to be the content and volume of the fracking wastewater, which was overwhelming the municipal authority’s treatment system, according to the complaint.
The NPDES permit allows up to 50,000 gallons of wastewater to be treated per day, but the municipal authority was receiving 100,000 to 300,000 gallons per day from the landfill, according to the complaint.
Municipal authority Superintendent Guy Kruppa took the matter to the landfill ownership and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before seeking legal advice.
Over the weekend, the landfill shut off the pipeline and began sending the wastewater elsewhere, spokeswoman Ro Rozier said.
“There has been no decrease in the quality of our leachate in seven years,” Rozier said. “(Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill) has had zero citations or violations for our leachate quality from the (state DEP), and the DEP routinely monitors our landfill. Our landfill does not accept hazardous waste, and we have had no increase in accepting residual waste from oil and gas operations from 2017 to 2018.”
A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Fayette County Courthouse, Uniontown.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .