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July 24, 2014
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DEP seeks use of natural gas well brines on secondary road systems


The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed an amendment to and renewal of its permit authorizing the use of natural gas well brines on state roadways and is seeking public comment by November 16.

As specified in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, General Permit Number WMGR064 authorizes the beneficial use of natural gas well brines for roadway pre-wetting (brines mixed with antiskid materials prior to roadway application), anti-icing (brines applied directly to roadway and walkway surfaces prior to the precipitation event), and for roadway de-icing purposes (brine is applied directly to roadway surfaces after the precipitation event).

The DEP is proposing to renew the permit and to make a major modification to also authorize “the beneficial use of natural gas well brines for (i) dust suppressant and (ii) stabilizer for unpaved secondary roadway systems.”

“DEP has for years authorized the beneficial use of shallow natural gas brines, which are the resulting salt water from drilling operations, to be used for pre-wetting and de-icing of roads during inclement weather,” wrote DEP press aide Kevin Sunday in an email.

According to Sunday, there are strict limits on what the brines can contain and how much can be used, as detailed in the permit document, which can be viewed at www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=18&objID=505511&mode=2.

Allowable levels of parameters such as toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, barium, lead, oil, grease and more are specified in the permit.

The permit, both in its current form and as it may possibly be amended, does not allow for the use of Marcellus Shale brines in pre-wetting, de-icing or dust suppression, according to Sunday.

Can the brines be applied to roadways in sensitive areas such as those surrounding reservoirs that supply public drinking water? Sunday responded, “As the permit reads, ‘[t]he storage, transportation, or use of the natural gas well brines shall be in a manner that will not create a nuisance or be harmful to the public health, safety or the environment.’ Should DEP determine that the use of brines in this manner is affecting the health of surface or groundwater, the permit will be revoked.”

DEP will receive comments from the public about the proposal until November 16. The agency will weigh those comments prior to deciding on whether or not to move forward with the modification and prior to drafting any such amendments concerning such a modification.

Comments should be directed to Scott E. Walters, Chief, General Permits/Beneficial Use Section, Division of Municipal and Residual Waste, Bureau of Waste Management, PO Box 8472, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8472, 717/787-7381. Comments may recommend revisions to, and approval or denial of the proposed to the general permit amendment, and renewal of the general permit.