MARCELLUS SHALE HISTORY: Comparison of the Delaware River Watershed to the Ohio River Watershed 2008-2012

Susan Phillips writes December 7, 2022 on StateImpact Pennsylvania:

The Delaware River Basin Commission, the agency that oversees drinking water quality for the watershed, voted to prohibit the discharge of wastewater from fracking operations into the region’s waterways or land. The commissioners voted 4-0, with the federal government abstaining. The commission is made up of representatives from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware along with a federal representative from the Army Corps of Engineers. 
The Delaware River, which runs from upstate New York and empties into the Delaware Bay, provides drinking water to about 15 million people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. About one-third of the Delaware River Basin lies above Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits.

Susan Phillips | StateImpact Pennsylvania | December 7, 2022
Wastewater in a large plastic-lined earthen impoundment in southwestern Pennsylvania. MARCELLUS AIR

“The DRBC Commissioners have taken a bold step to protect our Basin’s exceptional water resources.”

DRBC executive director Steve Tambini

Contrast that news story with what B. Arrindell of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability writes:

“DRBC’s press release is below and is disingenuous – not a positive step, not protecting the resources of the basin as DRBC is mandated to do. These new regulations will result in the contamination of the Delaware Basin and harm environmental and human health.

“If you go to the link  approved a final rule   ( ) and scroll down a little more than half way to:

Final Rule: Activities Prohibited & Activities Not Regulated by the Final Rule

You will see the lists below.

Please see my comments after each item. Please bear in mind that I have not had a chance to carefully review all the details, but these comments reflect how I see these regulations now – a few hours after the December 7th DRBC meeting when they were revealed.  We have lots of work ahead of us – THIS IS NOT A FULL BAN of either wastewater import or water export for fracking elsewhere – all of us living in or using Delaware River water – in the Delaware Basin and out of Basin (like NYC) are in danger of being poisoned. 

B. Arrindell
Director, DCS

Examples of activities that are prohibited by the final rule:

  • Discharge of HVHF wastewater to waters or land within the Basin;  ‘Discharge’ was defined and prohibited to land or water in the previously, last October, released proposed regulations (October regs) – so no change.
  • Road spreading of HVHF wastewater; That this is prohibited is very good, but see 5th item in the ’does not’ list below – allowing road disposal of conventional waste on roads – more details there.
  • Injection of HVHF wastewater into deep wells within the Basin;  Good that this is prohibited.
  • Disposal of HVHF wastewater in Basin landfills;  Good that this is prohibited. What about cuttings?  – hopefully a detail like this is in the revised regulations. Cuttings from wells being drilled are often put in landfills with about 1/3 sawdust drenched in wastewater.  
  • Discharge of leachate from any landfill in the Basin that accepts HVHF waste after the effective date of the final regulations, including after treatment at an onsite or off-site leachate or wastewater treatment plant; Meaning that landfills CAN accept HVHF after these regs go into effect – trucking will have all the established hazards. Only the leachate from the landfills cannot be discharged, but what about leaks from the landfill, trucking spills, accidents, illegal dumping? and who is going to enforce these rules?  
  • Spills and leaks during transport, transfer or storage of HVHF wastewater within the Basin if not fully captured by a containment system in place throughout the duration of the spill or leak and thereafter promptly removed or remediated.  When does a spill or leak happen IN a containment system?  and not in an unexpected place. – much less be ‘fully captured by a containment system’?  what does “promptly removed or remediated” mean? how can testing be done when the contents are secret because oil and gas industry has exemptions blocking the contents from public knowledge as confidential. Plus illegal dumping in rural areas will happen. Why allow contamination of an area not contaminated? – who benefits from this? Low dose contamination will be rampant. 

Examples of activities that are beyond the scope of the proposed and final rule follow. The final rule does not:

  • does not: Regulate air emissions from HVHF activities; air emissions are just as dangerous as water contamination. Air impacts are rampant near drilling and oil gas infrastructure. Asthma, other respiratory damages, and chemical specific impacts occur. 
  • does not: Categorically prohibit the transfer of HVHF wastewater into the Basin when no resulting discharge is proposed; Meaning wastewater CAN be brought into the Delaware Basin – who will ‘check up’ on these operations – PA has been very lax in its enforcement tasks.
  • does not: Regulate the transportation and storage of HVHF materials, which are regulated under detailed state and federal programs focused on these activities; Meaning wastewater CAN be brought into the Delaware Basin for STORAGE – which PA says there is a magical transformation of stored toxic wastes to become non-toxic after storage! Also what about illegal dumping? Who is watching? 
  • does not: Categorically prohibit the transfer of water from the Basin if it would be used to support HVHF (or any other specified activity). However, the rule does limit the circumstances under which transfers of water from the Basin will be considered and provides for an evaluation of such proposals based on factors designed to ensure no harm to the Basin’s water resources or the health and safety of the Basin community; Meaning for example, a municipal water system at the boundary of the Delaware Basin can sell its drinking water and get Delaware Basin water to fill in – so Delaware Basin water is supporting fracking to the detriment of the DRB, especially in times of low water or drought. or
  • does not: Prohibit road spreading of wastewater from conventional drilling activities, an activity not within the scope of DRBC’s proposed rulemaking. The Commission will continue to coordinate with the Basin states to review the scientific evidence regarding harm to water resources caused by road spreading of conventional oil and gas production wastewater and may in the future consider whether additional regulation of the practice is needed in the Basin. Meaning that all a cvompany has to say is that the waste they are spreading ( dumping on roads) is from a conventional well and they have no push back from DRBC. Whatever goes on roads winds up in either the water or the air. According to the Federal Energy Information Agency which says that over 90% of new wells are fracked whether ‘officially’ conventional or unconventional (fraacked) so same chemicals in use and likely also those chemicals released fro the formation layers. PLUS who decides what is conventional or unconventional? Bear in mind that in PA conventional or unconventional is related to target layers not if horizontal drilled or pressure or volume of water used and those doing the disposing on roads are required to submit an analysis of a ’typical’ load only once a year – not what is in each specific load! 



P.O. Box 7360, 25 Cosey Road
West Trenton, NJ 08628

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        

CONTACTS:  Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth.Brown [at]
                       Kate Schmidt, Kate.Schmidt [at]

Delaware River Basin Commission Adopts New Rules to Prohibit High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Discharges
Stricter Rules for Water and Wastewater Importation and Exportation also Approved

WEST TRENTON, N.J. (December 7) – By a vote of 4-0, with the federal government abstaining, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today approved a final rule prohibiting the discharge of wastewater from high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) to water or land in the Delaware River Basin and clarifying the circumstances in which water, including wastewater, may be exported from or imported into the Basin. 

Today’s action is reflected in Commission Resolution No. 2022 – 04 which prohibits the discharge of wastewater from HVHF to land or water throughout the Basin to control future pollution, protect public health and preserve the waters of the Basin. Resolution No. 2022 – 04 also strengthens DRBC policies concerning the exportation and importation of water, including wastewater, into and from the Basin and provides greater detail for implementing them. Resolution No. 2022 – 04 discourages, limits and places conditions on water importation and exportation to protect the health and safety of Basin residents and preserve Basin waters for aquatic life and other uses. The resolution recognizes the Delaware River Basin’s limited water quantity, susceptibility to drought, and limited capacity to assimilate wastewater. 

“The DRBC Commissioners have taken a bold step to protect our Basin’s exceptional water resources,” said Steve Tambini, DRBC Executive Director. “Adoption of these rules by the Commission is a joint action of four states and the federal government,confirming the significant and vital role our shared water resources play in the lives of more than 13 million people,” Tambini noted. 

The DRBC held five public hearings on the draft rules and received thousands of comments and petitions from a diverse cross-section of the Basin’s communities and beyond. The DRBC staff and Commission member agencies reviewed and evaluated all comments, along with additional scientific and technical literature and reports.

Today’s action marks the DRBC’s second major rulemaking on HVHF. At a February 25, 2021, meeting, the Commission approved a final rule prohibiting the practice of HVHF in the Basin, Resolution No. 2021-01. At the same meeting, the Commission directed the Executive Director to prepare the rules adopted today. 

“We appreciate the robust public engagement, the input from the DRBC’s state and federal members, and the careful deliberation by the Commissioners throughout this process,” Tambini said.

Resolution No. 2022 – 04 and a Frequently Asked Questions document are available to translate into Spanish and other languages on the DRBC website via a Google Translate widget. Requests for translation of additional documents related to this rulemaking can be made by contacting

The DRBC is an interstate-federal government agency created in 1961 by concurrent compact legislation, marking the first time that the federal government and a group of states joined as equal partners in a river basin planning, development and regulatory agency. The five Commission members are the governors of the basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government. To learn more about the Commission, please visit or follow DRBC on Twitter at @DRBC1961.

#  #  #  #


Kate Schmidt
Communications Specialist
Delaware River Basin Commission
P.O. Box 7360
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360

P: (609) 883-9500 x205 *currently working a hybrid schedule; email is best contact
F: (609) 883-9522
Kate.Schmidt [at]

Managing, Protecting & Improving the
Basin’s Water Resources since 1961


Meantime, western Pennsylvania doesn’t have a river basin commission, instead only having ORSANCO. Let’s review some of its history from the early years of fracking Marcellus Shale:

My Blog from March 5, 2011:


Unlike the major river basins in eastern Pennsylvania (Susquehanna River & Delaware River) the Ohio River basin lacks a true river basin commission.  The closest thing to it is a commission known as ORSANCO, which stands for Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

The commission was established in 1948 “to control and abate pollution in the Ohio River Basin.” As an interstate commission, ORSANCO represents the federal government and 8 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In light of all the Marcellus Shale wastewater being dumped into the upper tributaries of the Ohio River, it is rather alarming there is no mention of Marcellus Shale or gas drilling wastewater disposal in the PDF files below from 2010. This is in stark contrast to many of the problems reported in the upper tributaries of the Ohio River, with trihalomethane issues and new concerns in 2011 about radioactive wastewater disposal into the Monongahela River and other Ohio River tributaries located in Pennsylvania. As the old saying goes, “Everyone is downstream from someone.” In this case, 7 states are downstream from Pennsylvania and that should merit new concerns.

June 2010 Meeting Minutes (No mention of Marcellus Shale or drilling wastewater disposal)

POLLUTION CONTROL STANDARDS for discharges to the Ohio River – 2010 Revision
(No mention of Marcellus Shale or drilling wastewater disposal)

Sampling data: January – June 2010
Analytical results of bimonthly samples collected from 31 locations on the Ohio River and its tributaries. In addition to the routine set of parameters collected bimonthly, quarterly analyses for five metals are performed on a rotating basis among stations.

5735 Kellogg Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio  45230
Phone: 513-231-7719


2022 ORSANCO Annual Report:
From Damascus Citizens for Sustainability:
Historical documents on struggles with water quality in the Monongahela River:

Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, PA

In other news:

Fallen Leaves: A Tree’s Gift to the Stream
December 2, 2022 – After a gorgeous season of fall foliage, the leaves of our deciduous trees turned brown and have fallen. Once they are on the ground, it can be easy to forget about the ecological importance of these leaves. However, the second portion of the leaves’ lives have just begun- now is their turn to give back to the ecosystem that formed them! Once in the stream, there are 3 processes that leaves may undergo: leaching, conditioning, and fragmentation. Leaching is when the soluble organic compounds in a leaf are pulled into the water. Stroud Water Research Center has coined the combination of leached organic compounds and stream water as “watershed tea.” Just like when you stick a tea bag into a mug of water and see the tea disperse throughout the hot water, so do the nutrients from the leaves disperse throughout the stream. The dissolved organic compounds provide important nutrition for the microbes and other organisms within the stream.

The University of Pittsburgh has a Fracking Problem
December 8, 2022 – The ties between the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees and the fracking industry may hold the answer to the inexplicably hasty decision to withdraw from an event that could lead to further public scrutiny on the industry. Many of the trustees that govern the University have deep social and financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, particularly the fracking industry in Western Pennsylvania. Fracking giants like EQT often take advantage of these important relationships to control their public image and stifle opposition. 

Oil leak shuts down Keystone Pipeline
December 8, 2022 – WASHINGTON COUNTY (KSNT) – The massive Keystone Pipeline has been shut down after oil was found to be leaking into a Kansas creek. The leak is said to have happened 20 miles south of Steele City, Nebraska, on the Kansas/Nebraska border, a major junction for the 2,687-mile pipeline system. The pipeline carries oil from Canada down through South Dakota to Steele City, where it splits. One arm runs east through Missouri, the other heads through Kansas and to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Frac’ers dumped waste from wells with PFAS across Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia. Regulators refuse to test for PFAS, even after spills
A new map reveals at least 97 new locations that could have been contaminated by the industry’s use of “forever chemicals.” PITTSBURGH — Waste from fracking wells that used PFAS – commonly known as “forever chemicals”– has been dumped at dozens of sites across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia — all of which could face contamination of soil, groundwater and drinking water as a result.

Electric utilities in Pa. monitoring grid in the wake of North Carolina attacks
Pennsylvania utilities are monitoring for threats after an attack on two electric substations left thousands of people without power in North Carolina. FirstEnergy owns Penn Power, Met-Ed, Penelec, and West Penn Power, which together serve more than 2 million customers in Pennsylvania. The company says it uses real-time monitoring to detect physical and cyber attacks on the grid.

Friday PA Environment & Energy NewsClips 12.9.22

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