As spring draws near, local municipalities are thankful that there weren’t too many snow-filled days this winter that required use of road salt and other supplies.
Some road crews make their own salt brine mixture to help melt snow and ice, and there aren’t any reports of area towns using brine leftover from the oil and gas drilling process.
“We are not able to use the salt brine leftover from oil and gas operations due to concerns about the consistency and makeup of the brine material,” said Jim Carroll, a district press officer for PennDOT representing the Mercer County area.
PennDOT does use brine for winter road maintenance, and their crews make it. Mercer County is one of the counties with the necessary equipment, he said.
Dr. Jill Kriesky, associate director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a McMurray-based nonprofit that studies health-related effects of drilling, said she has heard of brine from flowback being used on roads, but not locally.
Flowback is a mixture of water and chemicals used under high pressure to fracture, or “frack,” rock to access gas and oil during the drilling process.
Ryan C. Grode, an environmental health educator with the Health Project, speaks with residents and has yet to hear about flowback brine being used for ice and snow maintenance.
He has heard about trucks leaking brine while transporting the fluid, a concern that the Health Project hasn’t had much of a chance to study.
The Health Project recently conducted a soil-testing project. A sample taken from the front yard of a home in an area where a truck was leaking fluids revealed that the material flowed into the yard and killed most of the grass; it’s not known if the fluid was brine, he said.