Meadville Tribune

March 6, 2013

Cochranton nixes septic waste from drilling sites

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

COCHRANTON — A septic tank service company won’t be using Cochranton’s sewage plant to dispose of waste from crews working at natural gas well drilling sites.

While no formal vote was taken at Monday night’s meeting, Cochranton Borough Council members unanimously were against the proposed use citing concerns over potential damage to the sewage plant’s grinder pumps and other equipment.

Charles “Chip” Heffern Jr., owner of Heffern Septic Tank Service of Franklin and Cochranton, asked Borough Council to consider a proposal to allow his firm to dispose of septic system waste his company would collect from natural gas well drilling sites.

Heffern explained the septic waste is generated from crew quarters at the natural gas drilling site locations. Heffern said the waste water passes through one small grinder pump at a drilling site before it goes into a holding tank for septic waste. His company then collects the waste and trucks it to a sewage plant for treatment, he said.

Heffern said his company collected less than 3,000 gallons of waste water per week from crew quarters at the Pettis Road gas well drilling site operated by Range Resources. Heffern said his disposal cost was 8 cents per gallon in Franklin.

Charging a similar treatment fee of 8 cents per gallon and at 3,000 gallons per week, Cochranton would earn just $240.

“We would need guidelines — we don’t want to cause problems for our plant,” Bill Shorts, president of Cochranton Borough Council, told Heffern. “Pumps are expensive.”

Following Heffern’s request, Emily Palmer, the borough’s engineer, cautioned Cochranton Borough Council that septic tank water is lower in oxygen content than waste water that normally flows through a municipal system. If the septic water is added in a period of low water flow at the borough’s sewage plant, the waste may not break down properly, she said.

What would be in the septic waste water also would be unknown without inspection, according to Palmer. The septic waste may contain rags and other foreign material as well as a higher concentration of suspended solids — all of which may damage processing equipment, she said.

Six members of Cochranton Borough Council in attendance Monday were unanimous in agreeing not to pursue the matter at this time — saying the risk to the sewage plant’s equipment outweighs any potential financial gain. Dan Jackson, the seventh member of council, was absent from the meeting.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at