The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing Tuesday in Plum on a proposed commercial disposal injection well in the borough.
The hearing is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. at the Plum Community Center, 499 Center New Texas Road.
Penneco Environmental Solutions of Delmont is seeking approval to convert a shallow conventional natural gas well to its Sedat ease1815 Old Leechburg Road, in a sewage injection well, said Marc Jacobs Jr., senior vice president of Penneco.
The well, known as Sedat 4A, was drilled in the second quarter of 2004. If approved by federal and state regulators, it would be the second injection well at the site.
The existing injection well, Sedat 3A, has been in use for more than a year, Jacobs said. It was previously a shallow conventional natural gas well, completed in February 1989.
“The footprint of the facility is not going to change,” Jacobs said. “We’re just adding a bit of redundancy to the project so that we have an extra well if we need to do work on the existing well. This second well will give us a fallback so that we don’t have to turn away customers. »
Penneco accepts all fluids generated during the exploration, stimulation or production of oil and gas wells, Jacobs said. Rather than treating water and releasing it into waterways, injection wells are the preferred disposal method, returning water to the geological formations where it naturally exists.
The water comes primarily from natural gas wells in the area operated by Penneco and others, Jacobs said. Penneco owns more than 1,000 conventional oil and gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania; its only other injection facility is in West Virginia.
While the water used in fracturing Marcellus shale wells is also abstracted, Jacobs said these operators reuse as much water as possible before bringing it to Penneco for disposal. Recently, the only sewage received has been from conventional wells, but Jacobs said that could change at any time.
A number of citizens and environmental groups oppose the proposal. Plum also opposes it, taking issue with his own Zoning Hearing Board.
Protect PT, formerly Protect Penn-Trafford, says wells pose a threat to drinking water supplies. He’s asking the EPA to deny the permit for the new well and revoke the permit for the existing well, said Gillian Graber, executive director of the group that helped found it in 2014.
Graber said the wells are problematic because they weren’t designed as injection wells, which makes them prone to failure, causing material to be released into creeks, streams and possibly the Allegheny River.
Jacobs said the injection wells are built to ensure the oldest components are unaffected by injection operations, and federal and state regulators monitor them closely.
The Plum Zoning Hearing Board in January approved Penneco’s proposal for the new injection well, which is seen as an expansion of a previous non-compliant use in a rural residential area. The borough has appealed the council’s decision in Allegheny County Court and is awaiting a judge’s decision to overturn it.
Plum had opposed the First Well but gave up her six-year fight against him in June 2020.
The borough argues that adding another injection well would encroach on the 500 foot setback required for the property. He says council also failed to consider Penneco’s duty to show that the proposed expansion would not harm the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood.
“Several residents testified to the adverse effects of the injection well on their property,” the appeal read. “A nurse gave further testimony regarding the adverse health effects of injection wells.”
Borough Director Michael Thomas declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Jacobs said the well would have no impact on drinking water. The Allegheny River, Puckety Creek and water wells in the area are 1,470 to 1,700 feet higher than the injected formation fluids, he said. The fluids would be injected into a formation about 1,900 feet deep.
“Geologically, there are layers of confinement above and below our injection formation,” Jacobs said. “The containment layers allow no migration beyond the sandstone we are injecting into.”
Penneco submitted its permit application to the EPA in May 2021.
The EPA held a virtual hearing on Penneco’s proposal in June, but Jacobs and Graber said there were issues with it, requiring a second hearing. Jacobs said the agency failed to notify the borough as required, while Graber said the hearing must have been held in person.
An EPA representative did not respond to a request for comment.
If the EPA issues a permit for the well, Jacobs said Penneco would then have to seek approval from the state DEP. It also needs a waste transfer facility permit from the state.