Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Environmental Groups Sue City Authority Over 'Fracking' Water

July 19, 2011

Two environmental groups have gone ahead with their threat to sue the city's sewage treatment authority over its acceptance of wastewater from so-called "fracking" operations.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Pittsburgh, Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper demand an immediate injunction to force the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport to stop accepting water from natural gas drilling companies.

But Mayor Regis McLaughlin, who chairs the sewerage authority board, says the plant hasn't taken any fracking water since the state on April 19 asked McKeesport's authority and 14 others to stop the practice.

McLaughlin said a request for an injunction is "unnecessary."

"I think they're just trying to get us to say on the record that we're not taking any more fracking water --- and we're not," he told the Almanac.

Filed on behalf of three Western Pennsylvania residents, the lawsuit alleges that the authority's plant in lower 10th Ward can't adequately remove hazardous chemicals and heavy metals from "fracking" water.

Instead, the lawsuit claims, those chemicals and other so-called "total dissolved solids" from fracking water are being discharged, along with treated sewage, into the Monongahela River in violation of the federal Clean Water Act and the state's Clean Streams Law.

"Some sewage plants have formally decided to stop taking any oil and gas wastewater," said Myron Arnowitt, state director for Clean Water Action, a national non-profit based in Washington, D.C. "However, McKeesport has taken no such action. With the state failing to take any mandatory action to address this threat to our rivers, we can no longer wait."

In March, Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper warned two sewerage authorities --- McKeesport's and one in Greene County --- that they were considering a federal lawsuit over what they called "significant and ongoing violations" of environmental laws.



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