BELLE VERNON, Pa. (KDKA) – A dispute is growing over fracking waste finding its way into the Monongahela River.
The state DEP says there is no proof, but the mayor of Belle Vernon say it’s just not true.
Every day, water with a grayish-white color flows from a creek into the Monongahela River near the 1-70 bridge in Belle Vernon. Mayor Gerald Jackson says it’s leachate or fracking waste from a the nearby Westmoreland landfill that’s in violation of a court order.
The mayor estimates a minimum of 50,000 gallons a day flows into creeks from the front and back side of the landfill before merging into a creek which empties into the river.
It all started when they noticed the discharge in the Belle Vernon sewage treatment plant. Superintendent Guy Kruppa says they identified the chemicals as frack waste that get washed into the water.
Belle Vernon got a court injunction to stop accepting the discharge and the plant is doing regular sewage treatment. But the mayor believes the leachate is still flowing into the river and he accuses the DEP of doing nothing to stop it.
The DEP responded to the mayor’s claims, its statement saying in full:
DEP has found no evidence that treated or untreated leachate is being discharged from Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill property. DEP has no evidence that chemicals or substances related to the oil or gas industry are discharging from the landfill to a nearby waterway.
DEP inspected the landfill on January 31 and February 13 in response to similar claims made by Belle Vernon in a letter to DEP from the borough’s solicitor. DEP has not received any citizen complaints of the same nature before or since Belle Vernon’s letter. DEP responded to the solicitor via letter with its findings on February 20, 2020.
During its inspection, DEP observed that the landfill’s stormwater discharges contained noticeable sediment (precipitation mixed with topsoil), which is causing a muddy discoloration in the receiving tributary. These discharges do not pose a risk to downstream drinking water users and the department will be taking appropriate enforcement action to address this sedimentation violation.
By way of background, Leachate is a liquid generated by moisture in a landfill’s waste and stormwater infiltrating through the landfill’s waste. Leachate is a component of operations at all landfills and must be treated onsite or transported to a separate treatment facility.
In an separate enforcement action, DEP negotiated a consent order and agreement with the landfill to ensure that the landfill’s leachate is treated onsite with DEP approval or by facilities authorized to do so within permitted discharge limits as well as end the potentially risky trucking of leachate.