StatCan: Industrial Wastewater Discharges and Cleanup

Industrial Wastewater – Who Discharges What and Who Pays for the Cleanup?  by Ken White

Via GLOBE-Net, June 10, 2012 – Canada’s renewable water supplies are being threatened by vast amounts of municipal and industrial waste being disposed of in rivers, lakes and other marine areas. Those industries largely responsible are not paying their share for the clean up according to Statistics Canada.

The Industrial wastewater business is huge involving water costs of $1.7 billion and water treatment costs of $656 million in 2009. However, there is a huge imbalance for the largest discharger of wastewater (thermal electric) compared to the largest water treatment expenditures (manufacturing).

The thermal electric sector, while it releases by far the highest amount of wastewater, is investing only marginally in the treatment of this wastewater. 

Industrial Wastewater refers to liquid waste discharged from industrial activities. Thirty-one billion cubic metres of wastewater were discharged for manufacturing, mineral extraction and thermal-electric power generation n 2009.

Thermal-electric power producers accounted for 82% of the wastewater discharge, followed by manufacturing industries (16%) and mining industries (2%).

Industrial Wastewater Treatment and Discharge Costs


Industries discharging industrial wastewater invested $655.7 million on wastewater treatment, which represented 38% of total industrial water costs in 2009.

Manufacturing industries spent $575.7 million on wastewater treatment and discharge, 42% of their total water costs.

The paper industry accounted for the largest share of this total at $274.1 million.

The food manufacturing industry spent $100.0 million, the chemical manufacturing industry $77.7 million, and the primary metals manufacturing industry $61.8 million on wastewater treatment and discharge.

Mineral extraction industries spent $70.6 million on wastewater treatment and discharge, roughly 43% of their total expenditures on water.

Thermal-electric power producers use large quantities of water for cooling, condensing and for steam. The industry spent relatively little ($9.5 million or 6%) on water treatment and discharge as a proportion of their total water costs in 2009.

Continue reading


ESTJ: Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Production in Alberta

Sarah M. Jordaan
Energy Technology Innovation Policy Research Group, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 20 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, United States IN Environ. Sci. Technol., 2012, 46 (7), pp 3611–3617
Publication Date (Web): February 24, 2012


Expansion of oil sands development results not only in the release of greenhouse gas emissions, but also impacts land and water resources. Though less discussed internationally due to to their inherently local nature, land and water impacts can be severe. Research in key areas is needed to manage oil sands operations effectively; including improved monitoring of ground and surface water quality. The resulting information gap means that such impacts are not well understood. Improved analyses of oil sands products are required that compare land and water use with other transportation fuel pathways and use a regional perspective so local effects can be considered and mitigated.

Land and Water Impacts of Oil Sands Technologies

1 How Different Are the Impacts of Oil Sands Extraction Technologies?

Bitumen is extracted from the oil sands using two technologies, surface mining or in situ recovery, each of which have different land and water impacts. Surface mining techniques remove shallow depth oil sand deposits by truck and shovel and extract the bitumen with the Clarke hot water extraction process by mixing the oil sand with water warmed using natural gas.(11) In situ technology is predominantly used for extracting deeper deposits. Thermal in situ technologies use natural gas to produce steam that is subsequently injected to reduce the viscosity of the bitumen so that it can be pumped to the surface using production wells. It is understood that oil sands technologies produce 10–20% more greenhouse gases than the average conventional fuel when calculating life cycle emissions from well to wheel,(4) yet much less emphasis has been placed on quantifying water and land impacts.

Land use of surface mining is comprised largely of polygonal features (mine sites, overburden storage, tailing ponds, and end pit lakes). In situ development has a different footprint, mostly defined by linear features that extend across the lease area (networks of seismic lines, access roads, pipelines and well sites).(12, 14)As of 2009, only 600 km2 of land were disturbed by surface mining, accounting for 0.3% of the area where oil sands resources are present, or less than 0.1% of the total land area of Alberta. Eighty percent of the resource is currently expected to be extracted using in situ technologies, affecting approximately 136 000 km2 (97% of the total oil sands area).(13) While natural gas is used in surface mining, in situ recovery can use on the order of four times more than surface mining.(11) The cumulative footprint of the future oil sands operations may extend over approximately the 140 000 km2 during the course of the development, comprising of 20% of Alberta, and even more if the upstream footprint from the infrastructure required for natural gas production is included.(14)

Continue reading

StatCan: Industrial Water Use, 2009

Statistics Canada, 5 March 2012

The three industry groups covered by the Industrial Water Survey had a total water intake of 32.3 billion cubic metres in 2009.

Thermal-electric power producers accounted for 81.6% of this intake, while manufacturers withdrew 16.9%, and mines, 1.5%.

Among manufacturers, five industries accounted for over 95% of the water intake in 2009: paper, primary metal, petroleum and coal, food, and chemical.

The three main industry groups discharged 31.3 billion cubic metres in wastewater in 2009. Thermal-electric power producers accounted for just over 82.4% of the total, manufacturing industries almost 15.6%, and mining industries, 2.0%.

These same industries recycled more than 8.6 billion cubic metres of water. The thermal-electric power producers accounted for about 48.8% of this total, manufacturing industries about 33.2%, and mining industries the remaining 17.9%.

The three groups had total water costs of $1.7 billion.

Note: The 2009 Industrial Water Survey was conducted under the umbrella of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators project, a joint initiative of Statistics Canada, Environment Canada and Health Canada.

The survey gathered information on the intake and discharge of water by three groups of industries: manufacturing, mining and thermal-electric generating industries. It collected information on sources of water, purposes for which the water was used, whether water was re-circulated or re-used, where the water was discharged and what treatments were used. It also collected information on water acquisition costs, treatment costs and operating and maintenance expenses related to water intake and discharge.

StatCan’s free download of Industrial Water Use, 2009 published March 2012.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables 153-0047 to 153-0051 and 153-0067 to 153-0097.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5120.

TorStar: Ontario only province to get an ‘A’ for drinking water: Ecojustice report

via: Toronto Star Published Nov 15 2011
Colin Perkel for The Canadian Press

TORONTO—More than a decade after the Walkerton disaster, much of Canada’s tap water remains at risk from contamination despite initial progress in front-line monitoring and treatment, a new report concludes.

In its third such report released Tuesday, the environmental group Ecojustice warns that while some jurisdictions have stepped up water protection efforts in the past five years, most have not done enough.

In 2000, seven people died and 2,500 fell ill in Walkerton, Ont., when the town’s poorly monitored drinking water was contaminated with E. coli from farm runoff.

The tragedy prompted most provinces to review and revamp their drinking water laws with mixed results — but that burst of enthusiasm has faded in recent years, according to the report.

“In many places, the health of Canadians is still at risk,” the report concludes.

“The lack of recent progress also seems to indicate that the impetus for improved water protection, spurred by events like Walkerton, is on the wane.”

The report called “Waterproof 3” finds only Ontario among the provinces worthy of an A grade for its water protection efforts, while Alberta lags with a C-.

The federal government gets an F for a record that continues to worsen, the report states.

In particular, the report criticizes Ottawa for a lack of progress on the legislative front, poor water quality for First Nations, and budget cuts it says will hurt Environment Canada’s ability to monitor the situation.

“The federal government is failing in almost every aspect of water protection, even though it should be setting rigorous standards,” the report says.

For the first time, the report has expanded to include source-water protection efforts — the idea that the best way to provide safe tap water is to ensure the water does not get contaminated in the first place.

The findings are not encouraging.

“Full-fledged source-water protection — a critical first step in achieving safe drinking water systems — has been implemented to some degree in only seven of 13 provinces and territories,” the report states.

“(It) is notably lacking in industry-heavy areas where the risk of contamination is high.”







Read more

For more information, please contact:

Kimberly Shearon, communications coordinator | Ecojustice
604.685.5618 x 242 | 778.988.1530

Sutton Eaves, communications director | Ecojustice

Reuters: New Waterless Fracking Method Avoids Pollution Problems, But Drillers Slow to Embrace It

Via: @circleofblue

In the debate over hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, two facts are beyond dispute: huge amounts of water are used to break up gas-bearing rock deep underground and huge amounts of polluted water are returned to the surface after the process is complete.

Tainted with chemicals, salts and even mild radioactivity, such water, when mishandled, has damaged the environment and threatened drinking water, helping fuel heated debate over whether gas drilling is worth its risk to drinking water, rivers and streams.

Now, an emerging technology developed in Canada does away with the need for water. Instead, it relies on a thick gel made from propane, a widely available gas used by anyone who has fired up a backyard barbecue.

Called liquefied propane gas (LPG) fracturing, or simply ”gas fracking”, the waterless method was developed by a small Canadian energy company, GasFrac.

Still awaiting a patent in the US, the technique has been used about 1000 times since 2008, mainly in gas wells in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick and a smaller handful of test wells in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico, according to GasFrac chief technology officer Robert Lestz.

Like water, propane gel is pumped into deep shale formations 1600 metres or more underground, creating immense pressure that cracks rocks to free trapped natural gas bubbles.

Like water, the gel also carries small particles of sand or man-made material – known as proppant – that are forced into cracks to hold them open so the gas can flow out.

Unlike water, the gel does a kind of disappearing act underground. It reverts to vapour due to pressure and heat, then returns to the surface – along with the natural gas – for collection, possible reuse and ultimate resale. And also unlike water, propane does not carry back to the surface drilling chemicals, ancient seabed salts and underground radioactivity. ”We leave the nasties in the ground, where they belong,” Mr Lestz said.

David Burnett, a professor of petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University, said fracking with propane made sense. ”From a reservoir engineering perspective, there is no reason this would not be effective,” he said.

Burnett said using gas instead of water can serve two ends—protecting the environment and reducing costs to the drilling industry of handling and disposing of tainted water.

But he said propane fracturing is “not a game changer,” at least not yet.

“This is a very conservative industry,” Burnett said. “Engineers want to see what someone else did first, and they want the data.” Most companies that have tried the GasFrac technique have not published data publicly, he said, possibly out of fear of tipping off potential competitors to its benefits.

Read more:

EPA announces schedule to develop standards for wastewater produced by natural gas and coalbed methane extraction

Via: Environmental Expert

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing a schedule to develop standards for wastewater discharges produced by natural gas extraction from underground coalbed and shale formations. No comprehensive set of national standards exists at this time for the disposal of wastewater discharged from natural gas extraction activities, and over the coming months EPA will begin the process of developing a proposed standard with the input of stakeholders – including industry and public health groups. Today’s announcement is in line with the priorities identified in the president’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, and is consistent with the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board recommendations on steps to support the safe development of natural gas resources.

‘The president has made clear that natural gas has a central role to play in our energy economy. That is why we are taking steps — in coordination with our federal partners and informed by the input of industry experts, states and public health organizations — to make sure the needs of our energy future are met safely and responsibly,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. ‘We can protect the health of American families and communities at the same time we ensure access to all of the important resources that make up our energy economy. The American people expect and deserve nothing less.’

Recent technology and operational improvements in extracting natural gas resources, particularly shale gas, have increased gas drilling activities across the country. Production from shale formations has grown from a negligible amount just a few years ago to almost 15 percent of total U.S. natural gas production and this share is expected to triple in the coming decades. The sharp rise in domestic production has improved U.S. energy security and created jobs, and as with any resource the administration is committed to ensuring that we continue to leverage these resources safely and responsibly, including understanding any potential impact on water resources.

Shale Gas Standards:
Currently, wastewater associated with shale gas extraction is prohibited from being directly discharged to waterways and other waters of the U.S. While some of the wastewater from shale gas extraction is reused or re-injected, a significant amount still requires disposal. As a result, some shale gas wastewater is transported to treatment plants, many of which are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater. EPA will consider standards based on demonstrated, economically achievable technologies, for shale gas wastewater that must be met before going to a treatment facility.

Coalbed Methane Standards:
Wastewater associated with coalbed methane extraction is not currently subject to national standards for being directly discharged into waterways and for pre-treatment standards. Its regulation is left to individual states. For coalbed methane, EPA will be considering uniform national standards based on economically achievable technologies.

Information reviewed by EPA, including state supplied wastewater sampling data, have documented elevated levels of pollutants entering surface waters as a result of inadequate treatment at facilities. To ensure that these wastewaters receive proper treatment and can be properly handled by treatment plants, EPA will gather data, consult with stakeholders, including ongoing consultation with industry, and solicit public comment on a proposed rule for coalbed methane in 2013 and a proposed rule for shale gas in 2014.

The schedule for coalbed methane is shorter because EPA has already gathered extensive data and information in this area, EPA will take the additional time to gather comparable data on shale gas. In particular, EPA will be looking at the potential for cost-effective steps for pretreatment of this wastewater based on practices and technologies that are already available and being deployed or tested by industry to reduce pollutants in these discharges.

This announcement is part of the effluent guidelines program, which sets national standards for industrial wastewater discharges based on best available technologies that are economically achievable. EPA is required to publish a biennial outline of all industrial wastewater discharge rulemakings underway. EPA has issued national technology-based regulations for 57 industries since 1972. These regulations have prevented the discharge of more than 1.2 billion pounds of toxic pollutants each year into US waters.

More information:

CTV: ‘Fracking’ fluid pitch stirs Great Lakes pollution fears

Clean water advocates worry that pollutants could stream into the Great Lakes if a proposal to treat chemical wastewater at a New York state sewage plant is approved.

The Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) is reviewing a plan to treat ‘fracking’ water — fluid waste from a gas extraction procedure — at a facility sitting on the Niagara River, which joins up with Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Early drafts of the plan propose trucking the liquid waste to the plant to be treated before returning it to wells for reuse, though some oil and gas companies have discharged the fluid into waterways, according to a Buffalo News report.

Environmentalists fear a spill or the possibility of the treated fluid being released back into a main water supply could threaten drinking water in the area and nearby cities such as Buffalo and Toronto.

“If discharged into waterways, the wastewater flowback puts the drinking water of communities in the region at risk,” Council of Canadians member Emma Sui wrote in an open letter to the NFWB.

The Great Lakes hold 95 per cent of North America’s freshwater and provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding communities, according to the social justice group.

NFWB spokesperson Earl Wells wouldn’t confirm details on the agency’s potential contingency plans for the discharging the wastewater, saying the proposal review is still in the early stages.

“One could make the leap that if you’re going to treat it you’re going to discharge it,” he told “But we’re not even at the discussion point about discharging. The alternative could be just recycling the water.”

Recycling the wastewater, said Wells, would mean companies truck the fluid to the treatment plant and then take it back to reuse in the gas extraction process.

Wells added that the entire project will need to be rubber-stamped by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

“All we have said is we’re looking at the potential possibility of treating wastewater from the drilling process,” he said in a phone interview from Niagara Falls, NY.

The chemical cocktail

Fracking fluid is a byproduct of hydro-fracking, a controversial drilling method used to exploit deposits of shale gas. The so-called cleaner fossil fuel is found inside densely-packed rock beds around the globe.

During the procedure, a high-pressure cocktail of water, sand and chemicals is pumped deep underground with the intention of blasting the rock open and freeing the gas within.

Chemicals such as methanol, ethylene glycol and sodium hydroxide are listed as commonly used hydro-fracking substances in a report prepared for the United States’ House of Representatives last April.

Environmentalists also take issue with the hydro-fracking process itself, worried that natural gas and wastewater will contaminate groundwater during extraction.

Like Quebec, New York state currently has a drilling moratorium in place on the state’s shale gas deposits.

Wells said he wouldn’t address environmental concerns, but pointed out that treating fracking fluid in Niagara Falls, N.Y. could be an economic boon to the area. (this comment concerns me the most. What about after the money is spent and the oil is gone? – M)

“It’s a poor city. It continues to see residents leave and revenue leave,” he said. “The cost of maintaining the water and the wastewater continue to put a burden on the ratepayers. It could generate jobs, mitigate rates.”  (It could. Lots of things ::could:: happen. – M)

Old fracking fluid from shale gas operations is typically stored in manmade lagoons with thick liners or reused by oil and gas companies. (It can also potentially contain NORM, or naturally occuring radioactive material which get carried by produced water (fracking fluid) to the surface. The most hazardous elements found in NORM are Radium 226, 228 and Radon 222 and daughter products from these radionuclides. The elements are referred to as “bone seekers” which when inside the body migrate to the bone tissue and concentrate. This exposure can cause bone cancers and other bone abnormalities. -Mickie)

Wells said the NFWB’s treatment plant is underutilized and one of only two facilities in New York State equipped to treat the type of contaminants found in fracking fluid.

But it may be costly and difficult to strip the chemicals from fracking fluid, warns a University of Windsor geology professor.

“Taking those chemicals from the water does not sound like an easy thing to me,” Frank Simpson told “This is an amazing cocktail of substances not found in the natural environment.”

While Simpson said the vast majority of fracking fluid is made up of water, he said the chemicals in fracking fluid shouldn’t be overlooked.

Oil and gas operators in Canada aren’t required to disclose the chemicals used in hydro-fracking, according to an analyst from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Ingredients in fracking fluid differ from operation to operation (proprietary secret? from Environment Canada? What’s wrong with this picture here? – Mickie) but remain a major concern, said Simpson.

“If you took each one of those ingredients and did a web search you’d find links to undesirable human conditions,” said Simpson. “They’re bad for people if ingested in certain amounts.”

If the NFWB does decide to move forward with plans to treat fracking fluid, Simpson advises the group to tread carefully.

This fluid is made up of artificial substances created by people to solve problems like corrosion and substance build-up,” he said. “It’s not the type of thing you want to come into contact with.”