The Use of Wastewater Treatment Tanks in Fracking Operations

One of the most controversial activities in the United States is fracking. Fracking involves using a high-pressure water system to extract natural gas from rocks deep underground. Extracting the natural gas from the rock is done by injecting a water mixture of sand and chemicals into the ground to remove the gas from the rocks. The water mixture returns to the surface and the wastewater has to undergo treatment. Companies can recycle it or place it into underground wells for storage.

Where Does Wastewater From Fracking Go?

When fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, occurs, water returns to the surface in a process called “flowback” and it requires disposal. Reusing the wastewater for fracking operations is commonly done by many companies, but others store it underground in injection wells. Some companies transport wastewater from the fracking site to treatment facilities in wastewater treatment tanks.

Companies who take wastewater from their fracking sites need to have a containment system onsite to hold the wastewater. Containment tanks are capable of holding thousands of gallons of water until it is time to transport it to a treatment facility. The wastewater treatment tanks used to transport wastewater are on wheels, which makes it easier to transport them to a wastewater treatment facility.

Trucks tow the wastewater tanks onto the fracking site and a pump removes the wastewater from the main containment tanks. Pumps then place the wastewater into the mobile treatment tanks and transport it to a treatment facility. Pumps at the facility remove the water from the mobile tanks and pump into facilities containment tanks where it awaits treatment.

What Materials Are Used for Making the Tanks?

Steel containment and treatment tanks hold fracking wastewater and liners of various materials that help contain the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has very strict regulations about containing and treating wastewater from fracking operations because it is full of chemicals and radioactive materials.

Workers can quickly assemble modular containment tanks onsite by just using hand tools. The tanks are either freestanding on level ground or they are permanently bolted down onto a concrete slab. Wastewater containment tanks come in many sizes and shapes to fit any space, even if the space has an irregular shape.

To transport wastewater, trucks will tow wastewater treatment tanks onto the site and pump the wastewater from containment tanks into the mobile treatment tanks. Once the tanks are full, they are then taken to a water treatment facility where the wastewater will be pumped into larger wastewater treatment tanks.

What Happens to the Waste?

After the wastewater undergoes treatment at the facility, the leftover waste is in the form of sludge. This sludge is put into containment tanks for transport to a landfill for disposal. It is getting harder to find landfills willing to take waste from fracking operations due to its radioactivity, but steel containment tanks with liners can store this material safely for years.

The leftover water undergoes EPA testing and if it passes their standards, it can go back into rivers and public water systems.


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