Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fracking Waste: Dangerous Spills and Road Spreading

Exxon to Face Criminal Charges for 50,000+ Gallon Fracking Wastewater Spill

Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy will have to face criminal charges for allegedly dumping tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste at a Marcellus Shale drilling site in 2010, according to a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling on Thursday.

Following a preliminary hearing, Magisterial District Judge James G. Carn decided that all eight charges against Exxon — including violations of both the state Clean Streams Law and the Solid Waste Management Act — will be “held for court,” meaning there is enough evidence to take the fossil fuel giant to trial over felony offenses.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General filed criminal charges back in September, claiming Exxon had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil. 

Thanks to laws pushed by corporate front groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), sponsored by ExxonMobil, states have allowed minimum disclosure of the chemicals used in the fluid. Though Pennsylvania does now require disclosure to regulators, it has a “gag rule” banning doctors from talking about the health risks.

The most recent study of health risks related to fracking was released in mid-December by the journal Endocrinology, which found the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in surface water and groundwater samples in Garfield County, Colorado — one county at the center of the U.S. fracking boom. The chemicals have been linked to infertility, birth defects, and cancer.
Read more at ThinkProgress.

New York’s Fracking Waste Problem | UPDATE

Even though the de facto moratorium on high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New York State continues, the disposal of waste from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations is occurring in New York now and deserves our attention. The extraction of natural gas using fracking produces large amounts of liquid and solid waste that can contain a number of harmful pollutants, including salts (sometimes expressed as total dissolved solids or TDS); chemical additives, which may include ethylene glycol, naphthalene, and sulfuric acid; metals; organic compounds; and other contaminants. Fracking waste from extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale can also contain naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORMs) such as radium-226 and radium-228.

In July 2013, [Hudson] Riverkeeper wrote to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and requested information about one method of handling fracking waste that New York is currently allowing: the use of production brine from conventional, low-volume fracking on New York roads for de-icing, dust control, and road stabilization. Specifically, we asked the agency to provide information regarding its approvals – known as Beneficial Use Determinations or BUDs – of the use of natural gas production brine for road spreading from June 2011 to July 2013.

UPDATE: Further review shows that road spreading of natural gas production brine has been approved for use in portions of at least 23 municipalities in 7 western New York counties: Wyoming, Erie, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genessee, Niagara, and Seneca. Road spreading of natural gas brine from natural gas storage has been approved in at least 10 municipalities in 2 western New York Counties: Allegany and Steuben. In addition, the New York State Department of Transportation Region 6 received approval to spread what appears to be brine from natural gas storage on state roads in portions of Steuben, Allegany, Chemung, Schuyler, and Yates Counties.

Read more at Hudson Riverkeeper.

For additional details, see The Facts about New York and Fracking Waste at Hudson Riverkeeper.

Public Statement on Fracking Waste -- By Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper

High standards of excellence are needed to protect Buffalo Niagara's local waterways. Careful consideration must be employed in how we use and apply various chemicals in our community.

In January 2012, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper prepared a 9 page technical document regarding High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF), which concluded that "HVHF activities cannot be conducted in a manner that is protective of both human health and the environment until issues related to water quality and water quantity impacts are resolved."

In response to our recent technical review of the Beneficial Use Determination (BUD) by NYSDEC, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper supports a ban on the road application of shallow well or storage brine as a de-icing agent.  (The permit does not allow application in wet weather, or when rain is imminent, or within 50 feet of any stream, creek, lake or other body of water. The BUD permit as written does not allow use of "flow back" brine, nor the use of byproduct from Marcellus Shale HVHF.)

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has additional concern about lack of control and monitoring associated with current use of shallow-well brine for road application as dust suppression. The testing conducted to submit a BUD application is a snapshot in time that does not adequately monitor the inherent fluctuation of levels of chemical constituents that vary over the production life of each well or brine source.  More robust testing, monitoring and regulation is needed.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper supports a ban on any WNY wastewater facility to accept HVHF wastewater.  Riverkeeper's technical comments in 2012 stated, "In New York State, there are no municipal or industrial wastewater facilities in existence that currently have the ability to accept, adequately process or treat high volume hydrofracking wastewater."

To view Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's technical documents regarding high volume hydrofracking, Click Here.

~ Fracking Wastewater Pit ~

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