A Warren County treatment plant will have to stop sending salt-rich wastewater to the Allegheny River to meet the terms of a proposed enforcement agreement announced by environmental regulators today.
Waste Treatment Corp. will have to pay a $25,000 fine and upgrade its plant to meet strict discharge limits for total dissolved solids and chlorides under the proposed consent decree.
The company has faced recent scrutiny from regulators and a lawsuit from environmental advocates after scientists with the Department of Environmental Protection found in 2012 that the plant’s discharge was harming water quality and aquatic life in the river. As part of the proposed agreement with the state, the company will have to install treatment improvements by Jan. 1, 2016 then conduct studies to ensure the water quality and biological community are restored downstream.
The treatment plant has been operating under a permit that sets no limit on the amount of total dissolved solids and chlorides it can send to the river from oil and gas and other waste streams. Although Waste Treatment stopped accepting shale drilling wastewater for discharge in 2011, it continues to release large amounts of salt. The proposed consent decree allows the plant to send a monthly average of 176,000 pounds per day of total dissolved solids into the river on an interim basis. By January 2016, the company will have to trim the salt discharge to a monthly average of 888 pounds per day of total dissolved solids.
The proposed consent decree (posted below) is open for public comment until Dec. 23. It will then be submitted to the Commonwealth Court for approval.