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Pennsylvania May Limit Drilling Byproduct From Being Spread on Farms

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page, and our Pennsylvania News page.

Pennsylvania is seeking to limit the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer on farmers' fields if the sludge comes from sewer plants that treat wastewater from natural gas drilling.

Environmental regulators' concerns about the sludge were highlighted in a New York Times article on Friday that described the risks of radioactive contaminants in the drilling wastewater concentrating in the sludge during treatment. The sludge, also called biosolids, is sometimes sold or given away to farmers and gardeners as fertilizer if it meets certain standards for pathogens and metals.

The Times article quotes from a transcript of a March 15 conference call between officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection about how to better regulate discharges of the wastewater that can be high in salts, metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials.

DEP is developing a guidance document about how to include new wastewater treatment standards into permits for new or expanding treatment plants that handle the drilling fluids. The new standards limit the amount of salty discharge, called total dissolved solids, that can enter state streams.

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