Residents who spoke Thursday, April 15, at a state Department of Environmental Protection virtual hearing expressed alarm that hydraulic fracturing well waste could wind up in a landfill that Tri-County Industries wants to reopen in Pine and Liberty townships.
Lyndsay Denny urged the state environmental agency not to allow water used in hydraulic fracture drilling to be disposed in the landfill.
“All of our lives depend on it,” she said.
Denny was one of 24 people who testified the hearing, which lasted about 90 minutes. DEP held the session to collect comments on Tri-County’s application for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for the landfill, said moderator Tom Decker, community relations coordinator for DEP’s northwest regional office.
DEP in December approved Tri-County’s application for the municipal waste landfill permit. The landfill would be on company property off state Route 208 near Interstate 79 in Liberty and Pine townships – the same spot as the company’s landfill that closed in 1990. The site is within 2 miles of the Grove City Premium Outlets and Grove City Airport.
The system would allow Tri-County to treat wastewater, including leachate — water that is filtered of solid pollutants as it passes through material — before releasing it into an unnamed tributary of Black Run.
According to the application, leachate would be treated and it would come from the landfill, along with truck-wash water and sanitary wastewater. However, Tri-County is also considering accepting hydraulic fracturing wastewater.
Those who testified — including residents and local officials — shared concerns about possibilities that the leachate could contain hydraulic fracturing waste, which could be radioactive and detrimental to the environment, health, wildlife and economy.
In her testimony, Dawn Baselj said DEP should require Tri-County to test the leachate for radioactivity or deny the company’s request to treat fracking waste.
Jane Cleary of Pine Township said she was concerned about the possibility that water used for hydraulic fracture drilling for natural gas in underground layers of shale could be radioactive.
After treatment, the leachate would flow into a stream close to Keystone Safari, a private animal park in Liberty Township. Cleary said that could affect the animals and visitors.
She asked DEP to delay the approving the NPDES permit until more testing and studies are done, or deny the permit because of what she characterized as Tri-County’s poor compliance history.
Failing that, she called on DEP to require the leachate to be tested for radioactivity.
Paula Renninger of Pine Township, who is running for township supervisor, also said Tri-County and its parent company, Vogel Holding, has a history of regulatory violations. He called on DEP to deny permission for Tri-County to accept hydraulic fracture wastewater.
Bill Pritchard, a Pine Township supervisor, said drinking water downstream from the landfill could be affected if radioactive water was inadequately treated.
The NPDES permit should be issued only if oil and gas drilling waste is not allowed, he said.
Barbara Shafran, a former Grove City resident, cited reports of cancer clusters in areas where fracking waste is stored.
“I cannot stand by and let yet another county have sick children,” she said.
Jeff Kremis, president of the Neshannock chapter of Trout Unlimited, said if fracking waste is accepted in the landfill, it will have a detrimental effect on the watershed.
It would flow into Black Run, Wolf Creek and Slippery Rock Creek, he said.
Justin Noble, who said he’s been working a book to be released by a major publisher, cited a 2016 DEP report that nine landfills had leachate with high levels of radioactive radium – higher than what is acceptable at a nuclear power plant. He called on DEP to conduct an independent study before approving the permit.
Gillian Graber, executive director of Protect PT, said a 2019 court order stopped a landfill in Westmoreland County from accepting fracking waste, which caused radioactive, toxic leachate. Protect PT is a nonprofit that educates and advocates for protection of the economy, environment and legal rights of people in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
DEP and that landfill were able to work together, but Graber said she thinks TCI lacks adequate plans to test for radioactive materials.
Interested parties can submit comments on the NPDES permit application until April 30 via email to RA-EPNPDES_NWRO@pa.gov, or via mail to the DEP Northwest Regional office, 230 Chestnut St., Meadville, PA 16335.
The DEP will compile and evaluate all of the comments, then prepare a comment-response document before making a final decision on the NPDES permit, Decker said after the hearing.
The comment-response document is typically released with the final decision.
TCI must still submit a permit application for a water quality management permit that addresses wastewater treatment facilities.
The DEP will publish the receipt of that permit application in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, providing a 15-day public comment period for individual water quality management permit applications for new and reissued permits, Decker said.
Also, Tri-County may file applications for other permits, and the DEP will publish notice as required by law and regulation.