Frack water treatment plant under review
NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP - At the Bradford County Planning Commission's meeting on Tuesday, two residents raised concerns about a proposed plant in Terry Township that would treat flowback water from hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells.
Terry Township Supervisor Jim Ahern said he lives near the proposed site of the plant and said he was concerned about the noise and lighting from the facility.
Martin J. Muggleton, the president of TerrAqua Resource Management of Williamsport, which would build the plant, said the plant would operate 24 hours a day and treat water brought to the site by about 45 trucks each day.
However, Muggleton said the lighting would be "very minimal." There would be only one light pole at the site, with all other external lighting located on the building itself, he said.
Bradford County Planner Samuel Thrush said that noise issues are not something that the Bradford County Planning Commission addresses in its approval process.
"Noise is taken care of through zoning ordinances" that are enacted by boroughs and townships, he said.
Standing Stone Township resident Diane Ward said she was concerned that water with radioactivity would be treated at the plant, which is located next to a "meat plant."
The TerrAqua Resource Management plant would be located on state Route 187, next to P&N Packing.
However, Muggleton and the engineer working on the design of the plant said that all of the plant's treatment operations would be contained inside a building measuring 80 feet by 185 feet.
"There would be no tanks or anything else outside the building," said Bob Furman, an engineer from Larson Design Group of Williamsport, who has been working on the design of the plant.
While there would be a concrete slab adjacent to the building on which trucks would off-load water and be reloaded with treated water, it would be sloped so that any rainwater on the slab, or any spilled water, would flow into a trench drain, which would carry it into a receiving pit, Muggleton said. All water off-loaded from trucks at the site, is pumped into that same receiving pit, before it is processed at the site, Muggleton said.
Muggleton said the plant would treat water from fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, as well as the water that comes out of the well bore when the well is commercially producing gas.
To treat the water, the plant would add a coagulant that would precipitate out minerals and metals from the water in the form of a sludge, Muggleton said in an interview after the meeting.
The sludge would then be "de-watered" by running it through a filter press, he said.
The de-watering process would produce a solid that would be trucked to a landfill, he said.
All of the water produced during the treatment process would be re-used in gas drilling operations, Muggleton said. The main use of the treated water would be to combine it with fresh water to be re-used in hydraulic fracturing of gas wells, he said.
The metals and minerals in the flowback water need to be removed from the water because they will cause "scaling" when the water is re-used in fracking, Muggleton said.
Scaling is a depositing of materials in the well bore and in other locations down the well hole that could restrict the flow of natural gas from the well, he said.
For example, metals in the water could bind to the metal casing in the well, restricting the diameter of the well bore, which would in turn restrict the flow of gas up the well bore, he said.
Additional scaling could restrict the flow of gas through the fissures in the Marcellus Shale, through which gas travels to the well bore, he said.
Muggleton said TerrAqua Resource Management has operated a similar treatment facility for frack water in Williamsport since 2010. In an interview, he said that none of the water brought to the Williamsport plant has had radioactivity that is significantly higher that the background radioactivity in the environment.
The water that would come into the plant in Terry Township, and the solids that would be trucked to a landfill is categorized by the DEP as a residual waste, not a hazardous waste, Muggleton said.
The Planning Commission voted to table action on the proposed plant in Terry Township until next month so that additional issues raised by the county's engineer can be addressed.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.