nav-left cat-right

Radioactive Wastewater, Treated by a Private Company, Discharged to a Public Works, Sent to a River

Radioactive Wastewater, Treated by a Private Company, Discharged to a Public Works, Sent to a River
What if I told you there’s a company who says it can remove all those toxic parts of fracking wastewater and turn it into clean water to give it back to the river? Sounds good, right?

The fracking wastewater that comes back to the surface after hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. “flowback” or “produced water” or “brine,” contains a host of toxic compounds, some naturally occurring and some man-made. But, it also has uranium, which turns into radium, and thorium, which makes the wastewater radioactive. It’s essentially, hazardous material.

So what’s the scoop?

“A fledgling company, Epiphany Water Solutions (Pittsburgh, Pa.), has obtained a lease to build a fracking wastewater treatment plant along the headwaters of the Allegheny River in Coudersport, Pa. Epiphany has proposed to install an untested distillation process, the first of its kind to be constructed, to take fracking wastewater — a.k.a. ‘flowback, produced water, or brine’ — and produce clean water. That clean water will then be sent to the wastewater treatment plant, who leased the property to Epiphany, and discharged back into the Allegheny River.” (From a Public Herald 2017 report)

The company submitted its application to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and awaits final approval following a public meeting this week.

In the application, Epiphany uses a sample of fracking wastewater provided by a JKLM Energy operation in Potter County, and it’s loaded with radioactive material. Some results show detections 1,000 times greater than what’s safe for drinking water.

fracking wastewater results


A sample of fracking waste from Potter County at a JKLM Energy operation with radioactive materials to be accepted by Epiphany Water Solutions, treated, then discharged back into the Allegheny River. © Public Herald
 And what is a safe level of radioactive material in water? According to the National Science Foundation resource website:

“The safest amount of radiation to the human body is zero. It isn’t possible to be exposed to no ionizing radiation so the next best goal is to be exposed to as little as possible. The two best ways to minimize exposure is to limit time of exposure and to increase distance from the source.”

This facility is going to accept hundreds upon thousands, upon millions of gallons of wastewater with ionizing radiation, of Technically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM), daily. Each day, truck load after truck load will haul excessive amounts of cancer-causing radioactive material to the headwaters of the Allegheny River, a sentence that is hard to imagine is even possible to publish in 2018.

So, are the 42,000 gallons per day of distilled water being tested for TENORM before discharged? If so, is the water sample sitting for 21 days when tested for radium to ensure an accurate detection…if not, why not?

If trucks are being tested when they arrive at the facility by a device, is the device taking a sample of water? Because we’re talking about alpha, and beta materials here, which do not pass through metal. So, holding a device next to a metal truck is not going to tell you if it’s “hot.”

ionizing power of radiation


Figure 5.4.3: The ability of different types of radiation to pass through material is shown. From least to most penetrating, they are alpha < beta < neutron < gamma. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA, OpenStax).

How is CAMA, the Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW), ensuring they’re not accepting radioactive material? Are they monitoring for Radium-226 and Radium-228 at this moment in their discharge…no, they are not. Do they plan to start daily monitoring for radioactive materials if the Epiphany wastewater plant is approved?

Has anyone taken a baseline for TENORM in the streambed sediment (upstream, at the discharge, and downstream) where the sewage effluent is located? If not, are there plans to ensure a baseline is performed and published to the public before the facility is permitted?

Epiphany Water Solutions is a young company, and last I read had only four team members. Their headquarters sits in a small garage on a residential street in Pittsburgh according to Google maps.

epiphany water solutions


The headquarters of Epiphany Water Solutions in Pittsburgh, Pa.
 I can’t find another operation like the one proposed for Coudersport which has proven its success to produce 100% clean water. All operations accepting oil and gas waste that utilize a distillation process and produce discharge do so with the knowledge that contaminants, including radioactive compounds, can get discharged.

The plant operating in Tioga County by Aquatech International Inc. is no exception, and is being held to a higher standard by having to operate with a NPDES permit in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

industrial waste treatment


The effluent figures of a new NPDES permit for discharge of treated industrial fracking waste in Tioga County.

Since Coudersport has been chosen to be the experiment for Epiphany’s prototype, why would it allow the liability of the NPDES permit to fall on CAMA (POTW), and not on Epiphany? If Epiphany is so confident in its ability to live up to the NPDES permit requirements, then let it discharge straight to the river, rather than play a shell game of sending it’s effluent to CAMA. Officials, with any sense of duty, should not risk a lawsuit by taking on the liability of Epiphany’s discharge.

To be clear about the propaganda, Epiphany is not producing 100% clean water — meaning it would be free of any material once distilled. Let’s stop pretending like this a gift of “pure” water to the river — and let’s not allow Trout Unlimited members to spread this propaganda without some measure of reality. This is not the same water that was first drawn from the river.

The company claims on its website that it can bring TDS levels of fracking wastewater at or below 100 parts per million (ppm) after treatment. However, 100ppm of discharge is still water containing contaminants. In that case, what is the city and sewage treatment plant doing to ensure the TDS leftover from Epiphany Water Solutions is not exceeding safe drinking water standards?

My guess is they’re leaving this up to the EPA and DEP to decide. In which case, another meeting will be held for the NPDES permit, at which time there’s a very strong chance that important compounds, such as TENORM, could be waived by the EPA, leaving the DEP to come with a plan that will likely monitor an insufficient gamut of the effluent.

And for what’s being vaporized by Epiphany Water Solutions — they will be venting fracking wastewater vapor at the site according to their application. So, has the school (which thanks to balloon testing by Laurie Barr we know is in the path of the vaporized wastewater) conducted a baseline of air quality for all of the air contaminants that can be emitted from the facility? If not, are there plans to perform a baseline? Has the school or borough contacted Carnegie Mellon or Cornell for assistance in setting up an air monitoring plan that map the likely pattern of pollution which will be emitted from the plant?

The questions created by this facility should cause any elected official to take a step back and look at what’s happening here from the viewpoint of human health. In that reflection, it would be easy for them to see that Epiphany is a company that’s never operated as a discharge facility; that opening the door to accepting radioactive waste to be treated and discharged into the Allegheny River will only find itself downstream, in a courtroom.

A public meeting about this facility is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, January 16th, at the Gunzburger Building in downtown Coudersport, Pa. where DEP will hear testimony from the public after a presentation by Epiphany and the state. All are invited to attend to have their voices heard.

 SOURCE: P-Interest

LINK:  read:


JKLM Energy Withdraws From Controversial Fracking Waste Treatment Project On Allegheny River

Home / newsCOUP / JKLM Energy Withdraws From Controversial Fracking Waste Treatment Project On Allegheny River
 Scott Blauvelt, Director of Regulatory Affairs and hydrogeologist for JKLM Energy, explains the release of a plume of pollution from a fracking well pad to the surface and subsurface waters in the “North Hollow” area during a special meeting in Coudersport, Pennsylvania (c. 2015). © Joshua B. Pribanic for Public Herald

BREAKING: This article will be updated as we receive new information. Contact Joshua B. Pribanic and Melissa A. Troutman from Public Herald for further updates or comment.

April 6, 2018   |  Project: Smoking Gun

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the Seneca Nation’s press conference video about this issue

JKLM Energy, the primary customer for a controversial fracking waste treatment facility slated for the headwater region of the Allegheny River, has announced it will withdraw from the project, adding that “a number of factors” impacted its decision to pull the plug.

The wastewater treatment facility is a project of Epiphany Allegheny, LLC, which is a part of Epiphany Water Solutions based in Pittsburgh, Pa. Epiphany proposed to build the facility using an “experimental” technology to treat radioactive fracking wastewater and discharge up to 42,000 gallons of treated water to the publicly owned water works, who discharges to the Allegheny River. The project has caught the attention of a growing list of concerned organizations and regulatory agencies, including the Seneca Nation of Indians.

President Todd Gates of the Seneca Nation stated “they have zero tolerance for the introduction of contaminants to the river” in a recent press conference.

JKLM Energy is owned by Buffalo Bills, Sabres and Bandits owner Terry Pegula, touted on Wikipedia as a “natural gas tycoon.”

According to the announcement, the company will continue to “responsibly produce natural gas, protect the environment, workers and the community, and benefit the local economy.”



Screen Shot 2018-04-06 at 4.53.15 PM

The announcement first appeared on the popular regional syndicate, Solomon’s Words for the Wise.

JKLM’s History in Potter County

JKLM has amassed 62 violations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) since it began drilling in Potter County in 2015. The company operates less than 20 well pads in the county and has permits for 60 wells.

In 2016, PADEP levied a $472,317 civil penalty against JKLM Energy for groundwater contamination at a natural gas drilling site in Potter County, home of a Triple Continental Divide. In 2015, the company violated Pennsylvania state law when it injected unapproved chemicals into an uncased well bore and polluted drinking water supplies.

The incident occurred about seven miles from Epiphany’s  proposed wastewater facility and is featured in the investigative documentary, Triple Divide [Redacted], which highlights water impacts related to shale gas fracking within the sensitive headwater region.

Most recently, JKLM was cited for three “outstanding violations” first noted by PADEP in February 2018 “failure to notify the Department of an accident or other activity…of a toxic substance or another substance which would endanger downstream users of the waters…”
Issued on March 8, the violations cite a “failure to properly store transport, process or dispose of a residual waste.”



jklm energy violations

A compliance report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection shows that JKLM Energy failed to notify the Department about a release of toxic or other type of substance that could endanger those downstream.

Epiphany Water Solutions and JKLM Energy were not available by phone for an official comment.

Epiphany’s Tom Joseph responded to Public Herald in an email that the company will be issuing a formal statement on the following Monday morning.

 Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producing state in the United States, which is the largest producer of natural gas in the world. The “Smoking Gun” report series digs deep to expose specific stories of DEP conduct. Is your energy coming from the shale fields of Pennsylvania? Stay tuned – Subscribe to Public Herald’s reports.

“newsCOUP” is publishing what newsrooms avoid. It’s a project by Public Herald that in some cases goes behind the scenes of a story to showcase the media that threads our investigations together. It’s also an archival project, where stock footage produced by our Team is available for licensing.

If want to license footage from the newsCOUP library send your requests to with the title “newsCOUP License” in the subject line and a link to the footage.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *