Tuesday, April 19, 2011

DEP Orders Marcellus Shale Gas Drillers to Stop Taking Fracking Waste Water to Drinking Water Treatment Facilities

This is what drillers have already done in Western PA, and what Eastern PA will look like next, if we don't each take responsibility and join the public outcry to stop it. This map doesn't show the wells that have already been drilled along the Delaware.

Posted by: Noël Jones

The big news in fracking today is that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is threatening to sue the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for trying to push forward new regulations allowing new gas drillers to drill along the Delaware Watershed before the Environmental Protection Agency has completed an environmental review and cumulative impact study on health risks according to Ilya Marritz of the WNYC News Blog.

Ian Urbina of The New York Times reported on Saturday that an investigation by Congressional Democrats has revealed that the nation's 14 largest gas drillers have been injecting millions of gallons of fracking fluid into their wells, including the toxic or carcinogenic B.T.E.X. chemicals — benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene.

Then there is this surprising--and great--news: The Associated Press reports that the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has determined that even waste water from fracking natural gas wells treated at sewage facilities and dumped into the Delaware River is too dangerous for our drinking water source, and has ordered drillers to stop taking waste water to these treatment facilities by May 19th. This is a stunning pivot for Governor Corbett's administration, which up until now has been fast-

tracking natural gas drilling in our state despite the protests of thousands of residents who are worried about the threat of drinking water contamination. The Delaware River provides drinking water for 15 million people in four states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The governor, as recently as last month, had issued an internal directive stripping the ability for the DEP's environmental inspectors to even issue tickets, without first getting a request to ticket cleared through one of two DEP secretaries.

Why the change of heart? The article is very vague. The DEP cites high levels of bromide (a type of salt) in frack water, which, when combined with chlorine disinfectants at the treatment facilities, creates trihalomethanes that have been found in the river at unsafe levels.

But this only skims the surface. This announcement from the DEP makes no mention of benzene, toluene and other carcinogens and radioactive material, or the neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors found in frack water in concentrations way higher than safe dilution levels for drinking water. This is partially because, as of yet, the gas companies are still exempted from EPA oversight under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and are able to refuse to disclose the full list of chemicals used in their fracking fluid, which they claim is a proprietary secret.

So if they have to say it's the bromide--fine--it's the bromide. Whatever works. But this fight is far from over. These large energy corporations are not going to let the DEP get in their way of their profits if they can get around it. And this announcement raises some new concerns--namely--if the drillers are still drilling, and they aren't allowed to take the water to treatment facilities any more, then where are they going to dump the millions of gallons of waste water from each fracked well? Back into open pits in the earth, where it can all leach into the ground and evaporate into the air for residents in communities near drilling to breathe? (The drilling industry is also exempt from the Clean Air Act).

These drillers are planning tens of thousands of new wells along the Delaware. Please use the links on the right side bar of this blog's home page to contact your local officials and express your concern about potential health risks and lost property values from water contamination. It's time to fight for our families and our way of life.

Also, please educate yourself with the links below, and pass this post around to family and friends so that they can educate themselves as well:

Articles from the NYTimes:
Regulation Lax As Gas Well's Tainted Water Hits Rivers
Pressure Grows for Answers on Fracking
Water Recycling No Cure-All In Gas Process

Films available on Netflix:
ASLAND Directed by Josh Fox (Netflix) (trailer)
Split Estate Directed by Debra Anderson (Netflix) (trailer)


Sal Panto, Jr. said...

Hi Noel
As we discussed earlier we have gone forward on testing the water quality in regards to the fracking concerns. Here are the results so far:

Just received the results for the radiological contaminants associated with Marcellus Shale gas wells:

Gross Alpha - none detected

Combined uranium - none detected

Radium-226 - none detected

Radium-228 none detected

Seventeen (17) Synthetic Organic Contaminants (SOC’s) were tested, all results were “0”

These results aren't surprising as there is very little, if any drilling taking place in the Delaware River Basin at this time. Not the case in western Pennsylvania and could change here anytime.

But we now have a baseline and will continue to monitor.

PADEP is developing monitoring criteria which we’ll use in the future.

These costs, if nothing else should not be on the taxpayers or water rate payers.

noel jones said...

Thanks for posting, Mayor. And most of all, thanks for acting quickly on testing our local water. Are there tests that can be done for the trihalomethanes and B.E.T.X. chemicals that these reports are concerned with?

david said...

This may sound a bit odd, but the map looks much like the old US nuclear stirke target maps that I memorized as a you. Near the same kill ratios truth be told. Though Pa was a sort of afe state back then. This reminds me of the Nj nuke strike maps. Circles within circles. The reason my dad moved us to Toms river, fall out safe and not even a tirtiary target.
Shame this isn't a war...then maybe we could do something with that target map.
Since it's just unbridled capitalism....we just get to suffer where we are.
I've been looking into home water filtration systems and how to improvise them. The cheapest starts at ten thousand. I'm working on it. Trying to find a cheap source of activated carbon. Soy doesn't work for our needs.
Thanks Sal, btw....good to know. As my taxes pay for such knowledge....keep spending them there. We are without doubt voting for you. In the wake of fracking I'd like to revist the CERT idea..Your thoughts?
I just met a .ocal AP gal, she came up through wilson and is going to Desales. Wish our kids could say the same.

Alan Raisman said...

If you have not yet seen on the news, there was a natural gas well spill in Canton, PA today. Canton is 173 miles away from Easton in northern part of Pennsylvania.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree with many things you say or do, but I do want to thank you for your stance on this, and for the test results.

Ghen Dennis said...


noel jones said...

Alan and Ghen, thanks for the link--I will be embedding this video soon--honestly the bad news on this topic rolls in so fast it's hard to keep up with it sometimes, and I really appreciate it when readers post links like this in their comments!

noel jones said...

Anon 8:49--thanks for posting. It's very important to not just blame but give credit to our officials when credit is due, and I agree, Mayor Panto and Vice-Mayor Warner have been on top of this issue, by passing the resolution to support Pittsburgh's ban on fracking, and for getting ahead of the game on water testing so that we have a baseline to test against as we go forward. I really hope that there are tests that can be developed/done at our water facilities for the toxic chemicals soon...the only tests we've been hearing about so far are for bromide (salt) and radium levels--those are important, but we need to know how much of the B.T.E.X. carcinogens are getting into our water...