Delaware and fracking

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As of 2013 no shale gas reserves have been identified in Delaware. But the drinking water for most of the state’s residents comes from the Delaware River Basin – where fracking for gas and associated pipelines is being considered in Pennsylvania.

In 2012 it was discovered that wastewater from fracking was entering the state's rivers. The state is involved in issues over fracking wastewater regulation through the inter-state Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).[1]

Water regualtions

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) was created by Congress in 1961 to provide shared management and oversight of water use and water quality in the watersheds intersecting Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 2010, DRBC put a hold on new gas well projects and barred basin wastewater plants from treating castoff frack water, pending development of regulations. 2012 outlooks call for 2,200 or more drilling pads, taking up 12,000 acres of the watershed and sending out 18,000 or more horizontal wells, each needing 5 million gallons of water just to develop and producing 18 billion gallons of wastewater over a 10- to 20-year period.

In November 2011, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced his intention to vote against draft fracking well and water-quality regulations that, if approved, would have cleared the way for drilling inside the 13,000-square-mile Delaware watershed. None of the Marcellus Shale runs under Delaware, but Markell cited concerns about protections for groundwater, surface water, drinking water and aquatic life and ecosystems. The announcement prompted the DRBC to table the fracking regulations rather than face a split vote or deadlock among the four state governors. That impasse has in turn left eastern Pennsylvania and New York drillers in limbo and triggered attacks on Markell and Delaware by fracking supporters.[1]

Discovery of fracking wastewater

In 2009 and 2010, about 1.4 million gallons of partially treated wastewater collected from hydraulic fracturing wells outside the Delaware River basin were further processed and flushed into Delaware waters through the commercial side of DuPont’s wastewater plant in Deepwater, New Jersey, near the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Delaware regulators only learned when contacted by The News Journal in May 2012 that the drilling wastewater passed through DuPont’s plant for treatment, exiting from a discharge pipe under the river on Delaware’s side of the state line.

In response, DuPont official Rick Straitman said that Deepwater received gas well wastewater for treatment only after it was mixed with other, partially treated liquid wastes shipped in by a hazardous-materials handler north of Philadelphia. Straitman added that DuPont discontinued its industrial treatment-for-hire business in Deepwater on March 30, 2012, and now operates the plant only for Chambers Works chemical plant wastes. He referred questions about pretreatment and mingling of gas wastes with other liquids to the Pennsylvania company, PSC Industrial Services, but also said that DuPont “has made no business decisions” about future treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewater.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Jeff Montgomery, "Debate seeps into Delaware: Fracking discovery stirs concern," The News Journal, May 20, 2012.

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