OXYMORON: Ruining Millions of Gallons of Water to Frac During a Drought

With some Marcellus Shale gas production requiring 17-million gallons of water just to frac one well, one has to wonder how it can be justified under drought conditions

Map: Red Dots are withdrawal locations with water use restrictions.

Susquehanna River Basin Commission Monitors Hydrologic Conditions Across The Basin; Including Oil & Gas Operations

by David E. Hess | PA Environment Digest Blog | September 2, 2022

(NOTE: Photos and files have been inserted into the original blog which can be found here.)

On September 2, the  Susquehanna River Basin Commission released an update on drought conditions within the Susquehanna River Basin–

SRBC monitors hydrologic conditions throughout the Susquehanna River Basin to ensure water users take appropriate operational actions as conditions change. 

Low flow conditions in late August contributed to more than 60 Commission-approved water withdrawal projects requiring operating restrictions, and nearly 10 Commission-approved consumptive use projects implementing mitigation actions. 

[SRBC’s Hydrologic Conditions Monitor shows nearly all the withdrawal projects operating with water use restrictions in Pennsylvania are 23 water withdrawal locations related to oil and gas operations in Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna and Tioga counties.]

Analyzing Water Conditions

Commission staff, in coordination with our state and federal partners, evaluate current conditions and short-term forecasts related to precipitation, streamflow, groundwater levels, soil moisture and reservoir storage to better understand current conditions with respect to established seasonal “normal” observations and the potential impact to users and the aquatic environment.

Below average rainfall amounts during the past several months have produced below normal hydrologic conditions and streamflow levels at many locations throughout the basin. 

The northern tier of Pennsylvania and southern tier of New York State are experiencing some of the driest conditions the Commission is monitoring.

Currently, 19 counties in the New York State portion of the basin are in a drought watch status, as determined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection has declared a drought watch for 36 counties and is asking for voluntary water conservation in those counties.  Read more here.

A watch is the first level in a series of drought advisories, (watch, warning, and emergency). 

There are no mandatory water use restrictions in place under a drought watch, but residents are strongly encouraged to voluntarily conserve water. 

Local public water suppliers may require conservation measures, depending upon local needs and conditions.

Photo: Tanker truck traffic gets heavy around well sites when hydraulic fracturing is underway. In this instance, a cluster of 4 tanker trucks on the outskirts of Washington, PA. Many people feel their placarding with only “Residual Waste” isn’t nearly enough to describe the toxic contents they might be carrying, especially since Marcellus shale wastewater is often known to hold water soluble Radium 226 and 228, combined with other toxins brought up from the black shale, that’s an ancient ocean, just over a mile deep beneath the surface.

Images above: Results from 2009 testing that the USGS performed on produced water from two wells inside Cross Creek County Park in 2009. The tanker trucks seen in the above photo were on Route 844, about 7-miles from those well locations in that Washington County park. The full report is included below:

Low Flow Limits

Numerous Commission-approved water withdrawal and consumptive use projects have specific requirements that must be met during low flow periods to protect instream flow needs and to avoid impacts to other water users and the aquatic ecosystem. 

These include:

— Water withdrawal projects with operating rules that require the withdrawal to cease during prescribed low flow conditions.

— Consumptive use projects with mitigation rules that require the consumptive use to be reduced or offset by using or releasing water from storage during designated low flow periods.

The SRBC’s Hydrologic Conditions Monitor tracks the operational status of these water withdrawal and use projects. 

Low flow conditions in late August contributed to more than 60 Commission-approved water withdrawal projects requiring operating restrictions, and nearly 10 Commission-approved consumptive use projects implementing mitigation actions. 

For example, low levels on the mainstem of the Susquehanna River led to operational changes at multiple electric power generation and public water supply locations recently.

Images above: In the early ‘wild west days’ of fracking in Washington County, PA, water was being withdrawn from every source possible. This gravel parking lot in front of the Washington County Fire Academy was so frequently used, that tank truck drivers would just leave their hoses on the creek bank to make future withdrawals that much easier. Eventually, a guard shack appeared onsite to enforce the termination of these water withdrawal activities, during what often appeared to be “low flow” conditions. Local citizens were often left to wonder if some of the tankers with ‘RESIDUAL WASTE’ placards were also dumping frac wastewater here, and other places across western Pennsylvania. Below: Chartiers Run on July 22, 2009

Oil & Gas Drillers With Limited Withdrawals

SRBC’s Hydrologic Conditions Monitor shows nearly all the withdrawal projects operating with water use restrictions in Pennsylvania are 23 water withdrawal locations related to oil and gas operations in Bradford, Lycoming, Susquehanna and Tioga counties–

— Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, Towanda Creek, Leroy Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Towanda Creek, Franklin Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Fall Brook, Troy Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Sugar Creek, West Burlington Twp., Bradford County

— Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, Sugar Creek, Burlington Twp., Bradford County

— Healthy Properties, Inc., Sugar Creek, North Towanda Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, North Branch Sugar Creek, Columbia Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Wappasening Creek, Windham Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Wappasening Creek, Windham Twp., Bradford County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Seeley Creek, Wells Twp., Bradford County

— EQT ARO LLC (Huf), Lycoming Creek, Lewis Twp., Lycoming County

— Keystone Clearwater Solutions LLC, Lycoming Creek, Lewis Twp., Lycoming County

— SWN Production Company (Bodines), Lycoming Creek, Lewis Twp., Lycoming County

— SWN Production Company (Ralston), Lycoming Creek, McIntyre Twp., Lycoming County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Lycoming Creek, Lycoming County

— PA General Energy Company, Loyalsock Creek, Plunketts Creek Twp., Lycoming County

— Adams & Hollenbeck Waterworks LLC, Salt Lick Creek, New Milford Twp., Susquehanna County

— SWN Production Company, Tunkhannock Creek, Lenox Twp., Susquehanna County

— BKV Operating LLC, East Branch Wyalusing Creek, Jessup Twp., Susquehanna County

— BKV Operating LLC, Middle Branch Wyalusing Creek, Forest Lake Twp., Susquehanna County

— Repsol Oil & Gas USA, Choconut Creek, Choconut Twp., Susquehanna County

— Seneca Resources Company, Marsh Creek – Brooks, Delmar Twp., Tioga County

— Seneca Resources Company, Elk Run, Sullivan Twp., Tioga County

[Click Here for an updated Hydrologic Conditions Map.]

Coordinated Actions

Staff convened multiple meetings with their Drought Coordinating Committee, comprised of agency experts from New York State, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the federal government, to review hydrologic conditions and discuss potential drought response actions.

Among those actions, the Commission coordinated with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to initiate low flow releases from Whitney Point Lake in Broome County, NY on August 16th based on river conditions in the southern tier of New York State.

If dry conditions persist, additional low flow releases from Commission-owned water supply storages at Cowanesque (Tioga County, PA) and Curwensville (Clearfield County, PA) Lakes will be initiated.

Near term forecasts indicate portions of the basin may receive some beneficial rainfall, while longer term projected rainfall through September appears to be trending below normal. Additionally, tropical activity appears to be increasing which needs to be monitored for potential rainfall.

For more information on programs, training opportunities and upcoming events, visit the Susquehanna River Basin Commission website.  Click Here to sign up for SRBC’s newsletter.   Follow SRBC on Twitter, visit them on YouTube.

Related Article:

— DEP Declares Drought Watch for 36 Counties, Asks For Voluntary Water Conservation; First Since 2020  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 2, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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