Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields says that he has been frustrated by the lack of concern over contamination of the city’s source of drinking water – the Allegheny River. To remedy the situation, on November 14 Shields introduced in Council a ‘Toxic Trespass’ ordinance intended to “hold liable corporations, federal, state and local governments and agencies, individuals, and representatives of neighboring municipalities, for the deposition of toxins and materials associated with unconventional extraction of natural gas that trespasses upon and violate the rights of people, natural communities and ecosystems within the City”.
The form of the ‘Toxic Trespass’ that the Councilman refers to is the possible contamination of the Allegheny River by the dumping of waste water from shale gas drilling. Contained in the waste water are quantities of bromine. When the water is treated at the plants the disinfectants react with the bromine to form brominated trihalomethanes (THMs). Toxic THMs have been detected in the region’s rivers since shale gas drilling became prevalent, and though a direct connection has not been established, a ‘Boil Water’ advisory was issued in a case in Greene County in April.