The disposal of fracking fluids is a major concern, but it is only one type of wastewater.
The first kind of wastewater is drilling brine. It is called brine because it is very salty. It contains the cuttings from drilling through the earth down to the Marcellus shale and then horizontally or sideways throught the shale. These cuttings contain mineral salts plus arsenic, mercury, thallium, chromium, other heavy metals and NORMs (naturally occurring radioactive materials) – whatever toxins are in the layers that are drilled though. In the past, the drilling brine, with the cuttings have been put in pits, and after the solids are settled, the liquid has been sprayed on the land. If too concentrated it kills vegetation, so even if sprayed thinly enough not to be deadly, it cannot be helping the land. The pits with remaining solids and plastic liner, if used, are buried on site (see PITS).
Regular municipal treatment plants are NOT equipped to deal with water that has high concentrations of dissolved solids; they can only dilute it. High total dissolved solids (TDS) are causing serious problems in WV streams and rivers, such as the Dunkard Creek disaster. See WATER QUALITY STANDARDS under REGULATIONS for more on TDS.
The next kind of wastewater is the 20% to 40% of fracking fluids (the estimate of this amount varies widely depending on the source, and geologists are suggesting studies to get better figures) that come back to the surface. The rest of the fracking fluids remain in the ground, but make up at least part of “produced water” which continues to come to the surface with the gas. Because of the increased volume of wastewater to be disposed of from Marcellus wells, the WV DEP is asking drillers to dispose of it by injection in underground injection wells.
Major gas industry corporations contend that they are storing the fracking fluids in tanks instead of pits and recycling them, but there are reported sitings of tanker trucks dumping fluid on or by roads, such as in this video:
Because of the controversy about what chemicals are used in the fracking fluids (see FRACKING) the concern is that these fracking fluids should not be allowed to enter our surface or groundwater.