Concerned citizens are calling on Gov. Cuomo to designate as hazardous waste the gas-drilling wastewater from shale fracking. A hazardous waste designation would protect our drinking water from contamination by toxic chemicals and radioactive elements released from shale, and additional toxics added to fracking fluid. To raise awareness, a protest by Frack Action Buffalo and supporters was held on Monday outside the offices of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which is responsible for enforcing environmental laws and regulations in NY.
Fracking wastewater has been disposed at the Buffalo Sewer Authority, which like other treatment facilities is not equipped to remove radioactivity and toxic fracking chemicals. As a result, questionable-quality water was discharged into the Niagara River, posing threats to drinking water, public health and the environment.
The Buffalo Sewer Authority is no longer accepting fracking wastewater as a result of investigative reports, citizen action and a ban of wastewater disposal and transportation in Buffalo approved by the Common Council. However, no other city in NY has such a ban, raising an immediate need to protect our drinking water through means such as a state-wide designation of fracking wastewater as hazardous waste that can not be disposed of by ordinary means.
The presence of high-level radioactivity in fracking wastewater and the lax regulation of wastewater disposal were highlighted recently in a comprehensive exposé published in the New York Times. Based on investigation of thousands of internal documents obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state regulators and gas drillers, the Times concluded that "the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood."
Radioactivity in fracking wastewater was found to be at levels higher than ever known, and unsafe for sewage treatment plants to process. Previously unreported studies by both the EPA and the drilling industry concluded that radioactivity in the wastewater can not be fully diluted in waterways. Furthermore, sewage treatment plants that accept drilling water are allowed by regulators not to test for radioactivity, as are the plants downstream that intake water for drinking.
If radioactivity is not tested, how can government regulators and the gas industry ensure that the drinking water is safe? The bottom line is that they can't.
To take action to protect your drinking water, urge NY Gov. Cuomo to designate fracking wastewater as hazardous waste. You can endorse a petition here.
PHOTOS: Fracking Wastewater Protest in Buffalo at the DEC
Buffalo News Article: Hydrofracking demonstrators call for Cuomo, DEC to act
UPDATE, March 9, 2011:WBFO NEWS report: Frack Action calls for hazardous classification of hydrofracking waste