Disposal well application in Plum sends tremors through Murrysville

This spring, while Murrysville council was approving new regulations for shale gas drilling, an application for a wastewater injection well in Plum was making its way through various government offices.

Penneco Environmental Solutions of Delmont is seeking permission to dispose of fracking water and other waste fluids from drilling by pumping the mixture underground into a defunct well site off Old Leechburg Road in Plum.

The injection well application drew a large crowd at a July 26 public hearing in Plum, and Murrysville council took notice.  


After a lengthy discussion, council voted unanimously Aug. 2  to have the administration draw up a draft ordinance for regulation of wastewater injection well operations.

Barbara Sims of Hills Church Road brought up the topic at council’s meeting.

“I am 100 percent against injection wells.,” she told council, saying such wells present the potential for contaminating underground water supplies, create high volume truck traffic and may trigger earthquakes. “Plum was blindsided by this application. We need to look at our regulations,” she said.

“I attended the meeting in Plum borough regarding the injection well,” replied Murrysville chief administrator Jim Morrison. “The state was caught with their pants around their ankles on this one. Pennsylvania does not regulate injection wells because there are only a handful in the state. The [state Department of Environmental Protection]  says it is an evolving process.”

Currently, there are seven active, deep injection wells for oil and gas waste in Pennsylvania. Three others have received permits from the federal Environmental Protection Agency but are inactive.

Murrysville Councilman David Perry, who is a geologist, said injection wells are regulated at a federal level and must comply with the Safe Water Act, which, he said, focuses on what impact the well will have on local water sources. 

The application from Penneco must first be approved at the federal level and then it will move to the state for action. Local zoning bodies also have some say in the approval process. Some municipalities in the state have enacted ordinances in an effort to prevent disposal wells from locating within their borders/

Tim Means, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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