Wastewater Well Opposed By Some Clearfield County Residents Secures State Permit

Mar 24, 2018

Some Clearfield County residents have fought for years to block a proposed injection well to store wastewater from the state’s natural gas fields, but the project has secured a permit from Pennsylvania environmental officials.

The Department of Environmental Protection gave its approval this week for the well, which will be operated in Brady Township by Windfall Oil and Gas. There are about a dozen of these underground injection wells in the state, meant to hold the salty wastewater that comes to the earth’s surface alongside natural gas. Much of the state’s wastewater is carried on trucks into Ohio and disposed of in similar wells.

Residents near the site of the proposed Clearfield County well have opposed the project over concerns about earthquakes and water contamination.

Marianne Atkinson of Brady Township said her family’s water well is 900 feet from the proposed injection site.

“Every time I turn on my water faucet or go to get in the shower, I’ll be worried if the water is going to be contaminated,” she said. “Is it going to harm me, or the dog, even?

Atkinson and her husband, Rick, first heard about the project in 2011. They have since studied up on injection wells and spent hundreds of dollars testing their water quality to establish a baseline in case the well goes in and their water gets contaminated.

The Atkinsons have also spoken out against the project at public hearings and even tried appealing its federal permit, which was ultimately granted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015.

“I’m kind of at the end of my rope here,” Rick Atkinson said. “When you’re fighting a battle like this, after a while fatigue kind of sets in and you kind of give up and hope for the best.”

But residents could still decide to appeal the state permit, and Marianne Atkinson said she will discuss that possibility with her neighbors.

The DEP said the well, as proposed, is sufficient to protect the area’s water supply.

The department is requiring the company to install earthquake monitoring equipment. Wastewater injection wells have come under scrutiny for causing earthquakes in other states.

Windfall Oil and Gas could not be reached for comment.

This story was published in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration between WESA, Allegheny Front, WITF and WHYY, to cover the commonwealth’s energy economy. Read more stories at StateImpact Pennsylvania's website.