COLUMBUS, Pa. - The Columbus Township supervisors unanimously voted Monday to repeal an ordinance banning outside wastewater from entering the township.
Chairman Dan Wood said the repeal was taken under advisement from solicitor Andrea Stapleford.
Stapleford said the decision was based on discussions in executive session, which the supervisors entered into briefly during the meeting.
The reversal to repeal the ordinance follows the federal Environmental Protection Agency's decision to permit Bear Lake Properties to operate two disposal wells in the township in June.
The supervisors appealed the EPA's decision and began drafting the ordinance that same month.
The ordinance would have prohibited underground disposal "of any harmful, noxious, chemical-laden, toxic, hazardous, radioactive, and/or unnaturally occurring liquids which are derived from sources outside of Columbus Township." It was amended on Sept. 13 to clarify that no agricultural production would be affected by the law.
The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Erie on Sept. 19 claiming the ordinance violates the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.
PIOGA called the ordinance arbitrary to waste generated outside the township.
"The distinction made by the ordinance between liquid waste generated within the township and such waste generated outside of the township is arbitrary and does not serve any legitimate relationship to the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the township," the lawsuit stated.
After Monday's vote, former supervisor Paul Pirozzola complimented the supervisors on their decision.
"I commend you on your efforts to realize that we can't put the township in a position where it will cost them a lot of money over issues that are not really finite and decided," he said.
Another resident asked if a total cost to the township had been established by the attorney.
Vice Chairman Dan Wood said the cost so far was $787.85.
The next step is to complete the EPA mechanical integrity tests, Lenape Resources Inc. President John Holko said. Holko is also a partner in Bear Lake Properties.
"We're updating and fixing some casing, installing tubing and packers and doing some testing," he said, adding that the testing could take place this week.
Holko said the recycling process of wastewater has "really stepped up" but the wells can fulfill the need to dispose of the wastewater from drilling and a "local site has value."
A public meeting may be held to discuss concerns of the township residents, including technical operation of the wells, Holko said.
The proposed pipeline to deliver the wastewater to the wells is still a long-term goal to create minimal impact.
"The ultimate goal is less on the surface, less in the streams, more back were it came from," Holko said.