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Until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted a new rule in 2016, the oil and gas industry was allowed to dispose of wastewater at municipal wastewater treatment plants. But because municipal plants aren’t capable of handling toxic and radioactive substances, wastewater can contaminate rivers and streams when it is discharged after treatment.

More specialized treatment plants are being built just to handle oil and gas wastewater, although even these can be challenged by the sheer volume being generated.

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