Mine water pulling double duty

THE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released its process to encourage the use of acid mine drainage from the state’s abandoned operations for a very different use – hydraulic fracturing.

Donna Schmidt

The DEP made its finalized plans public via a white paper released late Wednesday, noting the procedure to submit proposals and how the DEP will review the submissions for the use of mine-influenced water in drilling operations.

It also identifies possibly water storage options and potential solutions to issues of liability long-term.

Proposals to use mine-influenced water must include sampling and characterization of the water, officials said, as well as details about how the water will be transported, stored and used.

“Abandoned mines present Pennsylvania with one of its biggest environmental challenges,” agency secretary Mike Krancer said.

“This initiative, which combines remediating abandoned mine water with responsible extraction of our natural gas resources, is a win for our environment and our economy.”

Also known as fraccing, hydraulic fracturing has become increasingly popular in the state and northeast US region because of the unconventional Marcellus and Utica gas plays, and the step often utilizes fresh water.

The DEP has developed lists of major sources of mine discharge in Pennsylvania that it is encouraging operators consider first, though it said the agency would review proposals for using water from any mine discharge in Pennsylvania.

It will urge work with non-profit organizations and watershed associations operating mine water treatment plants, and also to consider creating or supplementing existing trust funds for the long-term treatment of mine-influenced water.

According to DEP statistics, more than 300 million gallons of water is discharged from mines into the state’s waterways daily, and that water has impacted more than 5500 miles of rivers and streams.

The white paper that includes the agency’s recommendations was developed from a 2012 draft that was released for stakeholder input.

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