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Former city councilman Tom Farley approached members of city council at their recent meeting to inquire whether they had directed the St. Marys Municipal Authority to take any action to prepare to sell water from the city's wastewater treatment plant to drillers in the Marcellus Shale industry. Farley had first approached council members about the idea during one of their budget work sessions in November 2010, stating that the revenue generated by selling the water could help balance the city's budget and potentially alleviate the need for a future tax increase.
Council members explained to Farley that selling water from the wastewater treatment plant is a complicated process that requires both the involvement of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and drillers who are interested in purchasing the water if it is available.
"For a driller to buy water, he has to have a complete water management plan that identifies all of the sources that he is going to use to acquire water for drilling his well," explained Councilman Dan Hepner. "The wastewater sewage treatment plant is prepared to sell water once a driller comes to them with an approved water management plan."
Hepner added that to the best of his knowledge, no driller had yet contacted the facility about purchasing water.
Farley responded that he believes waiting for drillers to come to the city looking for water is the wrong approach and urged council members to be more proactive about trying to use the water to generate revenue.
City Manager Dave Greene explained that while the city has begun the process of preparing to sell water, there is also only so much that they can do without the interest of specific drillers.