Brine disposal has been a controversial topic in Ohio for the past few years with the discovery of both Marcellus and Utica shale. States that have hydraulic fracturing tend to see the state EPAs and Department of Natural Resources as the regulatory and enforcement agencies. The Ohio EPA defines brine as the flowback water from fracking, that picks up minerals from the shale formation, including iron, calcium, magnesium, barium and sulfur. It may contain low levels of naturally occurring radioactive elements such as radium. It also contains high concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDS). TDS in the form of soluble salts in brine can reach concentrations as high as 200,000 mg/l. In comparison, the salinity of seawater from concentrated salts is about 35,000 mg/l (1). The brine is either deep well injected after treatment or treated to a safe level before being introduced back into the rivers and streams. The entire process is heavily regulated by the state agencies to make sure there is as little room for error as possible, since many of these chemicals are harsh for fear that they will end up in our drinking water (2).
Last month in Ohio, the company D&L Energy was charged with violations of the Clean Water Act. This company was dumping hundreds of gallons of their brine mud full of the oils used in hydraulic fracturing they practice into the sewer system through a hose. (3)The potentially harmful waste was dumped at night into the sewers that drop the runoff into the Mahoning River, leading to the indictment of the CEO of D&L energy and one of his employees in Youngstown, Ohio. The chemicals certainly would have gone into the drinking water for parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Natural gas exploration companies must ensure that the waste water resulting from the drilling process is treated and disposed of safely and legally. (2) Companies that do not follow the rules will create more barriers for those that want to run a business and follow the law. However, in this recent case in Ohio, the federal laws are more stringent that the state laws regarding clean water. The clean up,
)pictured here has taken a month but the damage done to the water could be irrevocable. Because of these reasons, the Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, decided the case should be tried in federal court, where harsher sentencing may occur. If found guilty, the CEO who is charged with illegal dumping, he could spend up to three years in federal prison and be fined up to $200,000 (4). It will be interesting to follow other states to see if they let the feds handle similar cases, or if they will prosecute similar offenders in state courts.