The importance of this matter ought not be underestimated by people with concerns about hydrofracking pollution.

The EPA has final say-so over  NPDES (National Pollution Discharge Elimination System) permits, which all sewage treatment plants discharging to surface waters must have. Now, EPA is looking into discharges of fracking wastewater into sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, using its authority over NPDES permits to do so.

I’ve written about these matters in the past: one important factor is that effluent data cannot be kept confidential by arguing that it is a trade secret. According to federal regulations, all data necessary for determining what can be discharged into surface waters must in the public domain. That should include whatever gets discharged to wastewater treatment plants, inasmuch as they are not designed, nor really intended, to remove anything other than what’s in domestic wastewater.

It could take some digging, but there’s likely much to be gained by getting hold of all the information in the files (local, state, federal) on wastewater treatment plants receiving fracking discharges. Industry attorneys may very well have already argued for confidentiality about data they’ve submitted, but that argument is specifically not allowed (caveat: I’m not an attorney, but I read). This type of information can be powerful, revealing specifically what is entering waterways and helping all parties understand the true extent of pollution by hydrofracking wastewaters, and possibly opening the door to appealing NPDES permits issued to towns where they ought not be receiving fracking wastewater.