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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2022 01:29 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Close the Leachate Loophole: Keeping Radium Out of Our Drinking Water
In the near future, I will be reintroducing companion legislation to that of Representative Innamorato to close the Leachate Loophole and keep radium out of our drinking water. This was previously Senate Bill 646 of the 2021-2022 session. 

We have a dangerous loophole in our state law that permits unregulated, untreated industrial waste to end up in our drinking water and threatens the safety of people across the Commonwealth. An average of 800,000 tons a year of waste from both conventional and unconventional drilling operations is sent to landfills in Pennsylvania based on industry data reported to DEP for 2019; this waste is known to have hazardous and radioactive properties. Because of the current loophole, O&G companies place this waste in general landfills.

When rain falls on a landfill, water passes through the collected waste, dissolving soluble materials along the way; this rainwater + dissolved material is called leachate. The Leachate Loophole allows soluble elements from oil & gas waste -- including Radium-226, Radium-228, decay products of uranium, thorium, and other toxic components -- to spread unchecked via leachate. Leachate is an incredibly difficult waste stream to treat--particularly when the landfills accept waste from conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations. 

When leachate collection chambers reach capacity, leachate is sent to wastewater treatment facilities for treatment prior to the treated wastewater being discharged to local water bodies. Wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to process hazardous and radioactive elements. There are presently 16 wastewater treatment facilities in the state that process leachate from landfills that accept waste from oil and gas operations, transmitting these hazardous and radioactive elements into the local water supply. 

We have to protect every Pennsylvanian’s constitutional right to clean water by closing the Leachate Loophole. Landfills may not accept or transfer this type of waste to wastewater treatment facilities. Additionally, this bill would require that all waste streams from conventional and unconventional oil and gas operations be subject to the most stringent, evidence-based radiological testing before leaving a well site.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation to close the Leachate Loophole and ensure our public safety.

Introduced as SB29