News Briefs: Defective Drilling Wells Contaminate Drinking Water

In this week's news, researchers identify the source of aquifer contamination, a New Jersey wastewater treatment plant receives FEMA funds and an innovative drip-irrigation project nears completion.
News Briefs: Defective Drilling Wells Contaminate Drinking Water

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According to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the shale-gas boom is responsible for contaminating North Texas drinking water, but not in the way one might imagine. The contamination comes neither from drilling nor from hydraulic fracturing. Instead, researchers are pointing their collective finger at defective casing and cementing in gas wells or from gas formations not linked to fracking zones.

“Our data do not suggest that horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing has provided a conduit to connect deep Marcellus or Barnett formations directly to surface aquifers,” the authors wrote.

The findings are encouraging because it means prevention is possible.

“This is relatively good news because it means that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity,” says Ohio State University’s Thomas Darrah, the study’s lead author in a Dallas News article.

The researchers looked at water samples for amounts and isotopes of hydrocarbons and noble gases. The analysis yielded signatures indicating where the gas came from and how it reached the aquifers.

Source: Dallas News 

Post-Sandy Grant To Harden Wastewater Infrastructure

New Jersey’s Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission recently received a $260 million public assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with post-Hurricane Sandy improvements. The money — the largest mitigation grant FEMA has issued through its Public Assistance Program — will be used to build a flood protection system and incorporate micogrid technology at the Newark wastewater treatment facility.

“Investing in the protection of critical facilities is essential to building New Jersey back better and strong after Sandy,” said Governor Chris Christie in a press release.

The Newark facility, which is the fifth largest wastewater treatment plant in the nation, suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge. Power outages shut down key pumping stations for 48 hours and PVSC was forced to discharge 840 million gallons of untreated sewage into Newark Bay. The plant was not fully functional for months after the event.

“We must ensure the viability, integrity and resiliency of the state’s wastewater systems, especially at critical facilities such as PVSC, which was overwhelmed and devastated by the tidal surge caused by Superstorm Sandy,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.

Source: Press release 

Wastewater Plant Uses Drip Irrigation Technology

The Hammonton Municipal Utility Department will soon become the first municipality in New Jersey to use drip irrigation for effluent dispersal. The City is installing 100 miles of tubing on a 26.5-acre public property. The grid pattern of tubing will disperse 660,000 gpd into the soil, where it will either evaporate, be absorbed by trees and plants, or will sink into the Kirkwood Cohansey Aquifer.

The system consists of 3-inch polyethylene pipe with connectors every two feet. The 67-inch drip piping is attached at each connector.

This first phase of the drip irrigation will be complete by Sept. 30. A second phase will include underground drip irrigation at a 7.5-acre playing field, which will increase the effluent dispersal to 875,000 gpd. The combined dispersal is equivalent to the total output of the plant.

A 100 hp pump will send 1,000 gpm from a lagoon at the treatment plant to a main line that will carry the water to any of 17 zones in the woods. A smart controller will determine through moisture sensors which zones can handle the drip irrigation.

Source: Press of Atlantic City 

Canada Leads Push for Flushable Wipes Standard

Barry Orr, a wastewater official in London, Ontario, is among those leading an international effort to define “flushability” when it comes to personal care products. Orr is working with the Geneva-based International Standards Organization to develop tests that will determine the flushability of many products currently on the market that claim to be sewer- and septic-safe.

“Canada is at the forefront in addressing the flushability of these products,” says Orr in The Globe and Mail. “We’re leading the ISO, and we’re working with nations across the globe to make improvements.”

Source: The Globe and Mail


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