Looking to first address deficiencies in a state-required application noted by the state Department of Environmental Protection, a Berwick-based frack-water supplier on Thursday requested more time before the county holds a zoning hearing.
Waveco Energy Services wants to install a frack-water recycling center on a 200-acre tract in Lake Township. The Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board was scheduled to hear arguments on Tuesday for why the property, now zoned A-1 Agricultural, should be granted a variance for the facility.
But some deficiencies within its application to DEP have slowed the process.
Waveco Chief Operations Officer Chris Cardell said Thursday the company wants to square up with DEP before pursuing a zoning variance for the Lake Township property that is zoned A-1 Agricultural.
The issues DEP addressed are “cosmetic,” easily set straight, but putting them in line before approaching the county could help answer questions the hearing board and the public might have before the variance is up for discussion, Cardell said.
Waveco requested the hearing date be moved to June 3. A closed-door meeting with DEP officials to review the deficiencies is scheduled for March 11.
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said the permit application, filed through the department’s Bureau of Waste Management, cannot move forward until the deficiencies are addressed.
A five-page letter sent to United Sanitation Network Inc., the Duryea hauling company that applied for the permit on Waveco’s behalf, requested further explanation on:
• How Waveco is to construct the facility’s secondary containment;
• The chemical makeup of the sludge to be stored on site;
• Whether the company had addressed state roads and bridges which would bear the weight of water trucks, which can weigh 30 to 40 tons.
Among 27 total deficiencies listed, DEP said the application was missing detail on how sludge is to be removed from the “produced water.” The letter also advised the applicant that all references to “sediment” must be changed to “treatment sludge.”
The zoning variance request before the county is a separate matter — whether the property located north of state Route 118 and between Loyalville and Meeker Outlet roads should be allowed to host the facility — from the waste management permit.
DEP could grant the permit, but if the hearing board denies a variance, the permit becomes moot, Connolly said.
Waveco proposes to recycle what those in the natural gas industry call “produced water,” Cardell said. Natural gas drillers use millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals injected under immense pressure deep into the Marcellus Shale formation to break up rock and open natural gas reserves, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking
The water that rushes back immediately during the drilling process is called “flow back.” More fluid will return with the gas during the life of the well, much of it during the first few months, which is called “produced water.”
Produced water generally contains more minerals and naturally occurring elements becauseit has spent more time deep underground. Those elements can include, among other things, chloride, barium and magnesium, the federal Environmental Protection Agency reports.
The EPA also reports some drilling waste sludge, material often pulled from more than a mile from below the Earth’s surface, has been found to be radioactive.
Application documents show Waveco will have employees on site trained to scan all incoming trucks for radioactive material. Water trucks bearing radioactive material are to be sent to landfills permitted to handle such wastes.
Water is to be filtered passively by moving through a series of tanks allowing the mud to settle to the bottom, Cardell said. No chemicals are to be added at the site, which is to be just under 1 acre.
A document submitted to DEP suggests the site might cover almost 3 acres; however, Cardell explained that document was part of an environmental survey needed for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to show how the site might affect plant and animal life.
The actual site is to remain under an acre and hold at most 60 tanks, application documents say. Drawings of the site show only about 37 22,000-gallon tanks will fit.
“We can’t change the volume of how many tanks are in there,” Cardell said.
At this time, Waveco has three clients it serves with fresh water and “they want to be able to say they’re 100 percent recycling,” Cardell said. He said they are pursuing other clients, natural gas drilling companies that operate in the Marcellus Shale region.
Maintaining recycling service to current clients would keep truck traffic between 12 and 25 trucks visiting the Lake Township site weekly, he said.
Cardell estimated the facility at its current proposed size could handle about 40 trucks per week at most. It is unclear if Waveco would put up bond to maintain the roads, an issue that could be addressed by the zoning hearing board.