‘Plum Crazy’ Injection Well Permit

Citizens and environmental groups call on Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf to revoke this permit

Wastewater tankers are a common sight around oil and gas fracking in western Pennsylvania. Their "Residual Waste" placards don't fully reveal the radioactive toxic waste they may be carrying.

Injection wells are used by the drilling and fracking industry to dispose of toxic flowback and produced water from oil and gas wells. Huge volumes of this toxic liquid waste return to the surface from Marcellus shale wells, requiring disposal. Radium 226 is one of the biggest concerns, along with BTEX (“B” is for Benzene), heavy metals and salts commonly associated with this “Residual Waste.”

The request to revoke this permit makes perfect sense, once you realize this old well was never engineered to be an injection well. We also learned during yesterday’s Press Conference, that federal regulations written 50 years ago, call for all fluids from oil and gas drilling to be injected back into the same geological formation from whence the oil and gas originated. Not the case here.

Watch a video of the Press Conference – Begins at 5:54 mark

Like so many other small municipalities in western Pennsylvania, Plum Borough didn’t have all the necessary regulations in place to address oil and gas injection wells like this one, when Marcellus shale gas production began in our tri-state region 17 years ago.

In the interim, we’ve also witnessed dramatic increases in earthquake clusters in Oklahoma and other injection well locations, even as close as northeastern Ohio. As described in my earlier blog, Pennsylvania’s Grand Fracking Experiment, our typically earthquake-free Washington County even experienced two earthquakes in recent years, close to Marcellus shale drilling and fracking activity. ‘Zipper fracking’ caused a cluster of earthquakes in Lawrence County, forcing the Pa. DEP to shutdown those operations.

A maze of abandoned and active coal mines underlie much of western Pennsylvania, adding to the underground risks inherent in our region. Mine subsidence insurance is recommended to a large percentage of homeowners in our undermined region. This injection well not only penetrates an old coal mine, it’s an old mine that’s been on fire for years! This adds to legitimate concerns about the safety of private water wells and freshwater aquifers in the area, since pollution travels underground.

Click on the image below for the complete 7-page letter to the governor:

Pennsylvania currently has less than a dozen injection wells, while our neighboring state of Ohio has well over two hundred. We’ve always heard that Pennsylvania doesn’t have the right geology for injection wells, and when you consider the original regulation that requires this liquid waste to be injected back into the same or similar formation from whence it came, this well is a bad idea all the way around. Using this well to inject toxic waste flies in the face of common sense and expert testimony, which strongly advises against.

It only takes a miniscule amount of toxins, whether radioactive or not, to contaminate an entire freshwater aquifer. And as the old saying goes, “You can’t drink money.”


Newspaper stories:

Governor asked to intervene on Plum wastewater injection well
Jan. 14, 2021/Don Hopey/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Community and environmental organizations have asked Gov. Tom Wolf to revoke a state issued permit for a shale gas fracking waste disposal well in Plum, saying the well could endanger public drinking water supplies in Pittsburgh and nearby communities. Protect PT, the Breathe Collaborative, and Citizens for Plum say in the letter to the governor that allowing the Penneco Sedat No. 3A class 2 waste injection well to operate will significantly increase the risk of toxic chemical and radioactive contamination of surface and groundwater, cause mine subsidence and increase chances of earthquakes.

Environmental groups call on Gov. Tom Wolf to stop Plum oil and gas disposal well
Jan. 14, 2021/Dillon Carr/TRIBlive – “We again want to ask the governor of Pennsylvania to uphold our constitutional rights to clean air and pure water and revoke the permit for the Plum waste injection well,” said Gillian Graber, executive director of ProtectPT, an environmental group based in Harrison City. The letter encourages Wolf to use his executive power to revoke the state Department of Environmental Protection’s permit, which was issued in April. Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokeswoman for Wolf, said the governor’s office will review the letter.


Injection Well EPA Public Hearing in Plum Boro Pa. 7-26-17
July 26, 2017 – EPA Public Hearing for a Penneco Injection Well in Plum Borough, Pennsylvania.