Drilling Fluid Collection and Disposal
The collection and handling of drilling fluids and inadvertent returns is perhaps one of the most debated topics in the HDD community in North America. On one side the industry realizes the need to keep drilling fluids out of streams, streets, and municipal sewer lines. On the other hand, tough new regulations in some states (e.g., California) present HDD contractors with escalating expenses. Owners need to adopt an approach that addresses environmental concerns while at the same time avoiding unnecessary expenses and escalating drilling rates. The following can be used as a guideline for the development of such an approach:
- Drilling mud and additives to be used on a particular job should be identified in the proposal and their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided to the owner.
- Excess drilling mud slurry should be contained in a lined pit or containment pond at exit and entry points until recycled or removed from the site. Entrance and exit pits should be of sufficient size to contain the expected return of drilling mud and spoils.
- Methods to be used in the collection, transportation, and disposal of drilling fluids and spoils should be provided as part of the prequalification. Excess drilling fluids should be disposed of in compliance with local ordinances, regulations, and environmentally sound practices in an approved disposal site.
- In working in an area of contaminated ground, the slurry should be tested for contamination and disposed in a manner that meets government requirements.
- Precautions should be taken to keep drilling fluids out of streets, manholes, sanitary and storm sewers, and other drainage systems, including streams and rivers.
- Recycling drilling fluids is an acceptable alternative to disposal.
- The contractor should make all diligent efforts to minimize the amount of drilling fluids and cuttings spilled during the drilling operation and provide complete clean-up of all drilling-mud overflows or spills.
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