Pennsylvania Proposes New Wastewater Treatment Requirements for Total Dissolved Solids

November 13, 2009
by MARC GOLD and MICHAEL NINES
MGKF Special Alert

On November 7, 2009, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board ("EQB") published for public comment proposed regulations that would establish significantly more stringent Total Dissolved Solids ("TDS") standards for certain wastewater treatment plant operations. Comments on the proposed regulations may be submitted until February 5, 2010.

High TDS wastewaters subject to the new regulations are defined as a "new discharge" of high TDS that did not exist on April 1, 2009, and include TDS concentration that exceeds 2,000 mg/l or a TDS loading that exceeds 100,000 pounds per day. The proposed regulation also extends to expanded or increased discharges from a facility in existence prior to April 1, 2009. If finalized in their current form, the proposed regulations would largely be implemented by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("PADEP") through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System ("NPDES") permit program.

Under the newly proposed 25 Pa. Code Section 95.10, high TDS effluent criteria have been established along with provisions for exceptions to the effluent criteria where industries are already subject to Federal criteria for TDS, total chlorides, and total sulfates. In addition, the section establishes specific criteria for new sources of high TDS wastewater from fracturing, production, field exploration, drilling, or completion of oil and gas wells (e.g., Marcellus Shale formation). The proposed high TDS effluent requirements for new discharges are as follows:

  • discharge may not contain more than 500 mg/l of TDS as a monthly average;
  • discharge may not contain more than 250 mg/l of total chlorides as a monthly average;
  • discharge may not contain more than 250 mg/l of total sulfates as a monthly average.

As a result of these proposed regulations new or increased discharges will be required to install advanced treatment (i.e., reverse osmosis, ultra filtration) to meet the effluent requirements. PADEP projects that the costs for treatment of high TDS wastewaters would be approximately $0.25/gallon. New or expanded high TDS wastewater sources will not be permitted under the proposal unless the applicant proposes to install adequate treatment of TDS by January 1, 2011.

MGKF will also be attending a series of public hearings that the PADEP will be holding in December 2009. If you have questions or concerns regarding the proposed regulations or would like to submit comments to the EQB, either individually or as part of a group, please contact Marc Gold (mgold@mgkflaw.com) or Michael Nines (mnines@mgkflaw.com) at (484) 430-5700.