Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Niagara Falls Bans Hydrofracking Wastewater Treatment

Treated waste flows into Niagara River - AP
Niagara Falls City Council voted on Monday to ban hydrofracking (a.k.a. fracking) and the treatment of the wastewater in the city. Fracking wastewater treatment has been the major topic of discussion at public meetings of the city's water board over the last several months.

The water board has been interested in accepting hydrofracking wastewater as a way to raise revenues. However, NY State is still in the process of developing gas drilling regulations, and has not put forth a proven plan for successfully cleaning up the wastewater. Such a plan is essential because fracking wastewater contains not only added chemicals, some toxic, but also toxic and radioactive chemicals extracted from the undergound shale. Municipal wastewater treatment has proven to be ineffective in cleaning fracking wastewater in Pennsylvania and is now prohibited. These facts left citizens with strong concerns about chemical pollution and public health, evoking comparisons to the Love Canal tragedy in Niagara Falls. Canadians were also concerned about fracking wastewater treatment, since the Niagara River borders their country and drains into Lake Ontario, which is a source of drinking water for millions of people in Canada.

The Niagara Gazette reported on Monday that the ordinance adopted — patterned after a similar ban imposed by the City of Buffalo and other communities in recent months — describes hydrofracking and the handling of waste from the process as posing a "significant threat" to the "health, safety and welfare" of residents in Niagara Falls. It also suggests that any involvement in the process within city limits could cause "irreparable harm" to the city’s water supply and may cause significant health problems for city residents. 

“The subject of hydrofracking is something that is going to effect everyone in our community,” said Councilman Glenn Choolokian, an employee of the city’s water board who pushed for the anti-fracking measures. “This dangerous process must be addressed now. It can’t be talked about in secret meetings anymore. If hydrofracking is such a great thing, let some other city be the test case.”

The Council also passed a resolution telling NY Gov. Cuomo that fracking should be banned in NY, like the statewide ban in Buffalo.

“I hope the governor gets the big picture here and bans it statewide,” said Council Chairman Sam Fruscione, who is expecting the council’s letter to be delivered to Cuomo within the next few days.

The language of the ordinance is similar to that used by two other NY towns whose local bans were challenged by the gas industry but were upheld by two different NY Supreme Court Justices.

“I’m sure we will be sued, but our job is to serve the city,” Fruscione said. “We’ll see what happens,” added Choolokian. “I feel very confident with the help we had on this.”

“Tonight, together, we draw the line in the sand against an industry and the state that desires to ruin this community,” said Roger Spurback, president of the Niagara Falls Block Club Council. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. A tip of our hats for your response.”

Also see the WGRZ TV News coverage and watch a video report here.

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