Innamorato, Muth legislation would close 30-year hazardous waste loophole, protect Pennsylvanians

Current law allows toxic drilling waste to contaminate PA drinking water

HARRISBURG, May 12 – To continue their efforts to protect the public health of Pennsylvanians and the environment, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery, are reintroducing legislation that would close a decades-long loophole regarding the disposal of toxic drilling waste.

Under the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA), passed 30 years ago, oil and gas companies are excluded from the requirement to thoroughly test or treat waste before disposing of it in municipal landfills and in turn wastewater treatment plants, neither of which are capable of treating such waste. Oil and gas waste is so radioactive that it kills the microbes meant to treat waste intended for these wastewater treatment facilities. This means that not only the hazardous waste not meant for wastewater treatment facilities shoots right through the wastewater treatment facility, but normal waste that should be treated by the facility can also make it untreated into rivers.

“Right now, under the supervision of both the DEP and EPA, billions of gallons of radioactive frack waste is being discharged each year into waterways of our Commonwealth,” said Muth. ”This legislation would provide long overdue protections needed to keep our drinking water, land, and air safe from the radioactive harm of the extraction industry.”

Oil and gas wastewater contains chemicals—harmful radioactive elements, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and salts—that can be detrimental to both Pennsylvanians and the environment. As a result of the current law, this toxic waste ends up in our water supplies, putting communities at risk.

“This is a huge oversight in the Solid Waste Management Act that is having severe impacts on our neighbors and our environment. We cannot allow the current practice of dangerous toxic waste disposal to continue. Pennsylvanians deserve better. Our planet deserves better,” said Innamorato.

Innamorato and Muth are introducing a package of three bills in their respective chambers that would hold the oil and gas industry to the same standards as other industries. HB1353/SB645 will include drilling waste in the SWMA’s definition of hazardous waste. HB1354/SB644 would repeal the language in the SWMA that exempts oil and gas industries from testing or treating drilling wastewater before disposal. HB1355/SB646 would subject oil and gas waste to testing before it is accepted in or released from municipal and sanitary landfills. That will prevent landfills from acting as a gateway for hazardous and radioactive waste to enter our drinking water via wastewater treatment facilities.

“These bills would hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the waste it produces. By requiring that companies test their waste, we can ensure it’s properly treated and disposed of,” said Innamorato. “By closing this loophole, we will be prioritizing the health of our citizens, workers, and environment over companies who make billions of dollars from our communities’ natural resources.”

Innamorato and Muth tried to champion this legislation last session, but members of the majority party didn’t consider it a priority. They’re reintroducing these important bills once again in an attempt to make Pennsylvania a safe place to live.