2017-09-09 / Front Page

Epiphany project awaits permit

A proposal to build a shale-gas wastewater processing facility just west of Coudersport has yet to secure approval from the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Coudersport Area Municipal Authority (CAMA) continues to field inquiries about the potential health and safety risks of the project being proposed by Pittsburgh-based Epiphany Environmental.

Epiphany proposes to build the plant close to the CAMA plant off Toles Hollow Road. Initially, it could process about 20,000 gallons of fluid per day. However, as additional wells are tapped in the region, that capacity could increase.

DEP’s decision is expected no later than November. A handful of area residents have raised concerns about the potential for volatile organic compounds, carcinogens and radioactive elements in the waste water to enter the environment. The fact that Coudersport Elementary School is situated less than a mile downwind has also raised questions.

Those concerns led Coudersport Borough Councilman Bryan Welsh to call for a ban on the storage or treatment of shale gas drilling wastewater in the borough, but his motion died for the lack of a second.

CAMA chairman William Krog said he believes the public’s apprehension is unwarranted. “I realize people have concerns, but they don’t have a true understanding of how the process actually works,” he said. “The evaporation process will not release into the atmosphere -- it’s a contained system.”

He added that he believes much of the information being cited by opponents of the plan is outdated.

“It’s a different system and the technology has progressed since that time,” Krog said.

Epiphany has been developing a cellular water treatment system which uses distillation and mist evaporation.

According to company officials, the process first removes minerals and heavy metals from the fluid. Solids are contained, dried and disposed of in state-licensed landfills.

The brine that remains is processed in the second stage. Its by-products include distilled water, as well as salt that can be sold for commercial use such as road application. The water can be reused for hydrofracturing or discharged into a conventional sewage treatment plant, in small enough doses that its purity does not upset the microbial balance.

If DEP gives the project the green light, CAMA would still need to approve a separate contract with Epiphany that would allow the firm to discharge the treated water into the sewage treatment plant for a per-gallon fee that has yet to be determined, according to Krog.

“At this point we’re only leasing the land and have no agreement in place to take the wastewater, although that is something we’re considering,” the chairman said. “It will be a benefit to everyone if we can eliminate the waste in a safe, controlled manner.”

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