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Critics Say New York Proposed Fracking Regulations Fall Short on Wastewater Disposal

Feb 21, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Environmentalists in New York are criticizing the state's proposed fracking regulations for failing to adequately address the disposal of millions of gallons of wastewater that will likely be produced by natural gas wells once hydraulic fracturing is permitted in the state.  The New York Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) draft regulations would allow three options for disposing of fracking wastewater, but drillers would ultimately choose which to use.

According to a report from the Associated Press, environmentalists contend that all of the options provided by the state have problems, and their impacts have not been adequately studied.

According to the DEC's proposed regulations, drillers could choose:

  • Transport the waste to a treatment facility and discharge the treated water into a river or reuse it for another drilling project;
  • Ship it out of state for deep-well injection disposal;
  • Recycle it on-site for drilling multiple wells.

 Transporting the waste to a treatment facility is problematic, because few are equipped to handle the types of contaminants found in fracking wastewater.  Last May, Pennsylvania regulators actually moved to stop municipal wastewater treatment plants from accepting fracking waste.  This came after water in rivers downstream from plants where treated fracking waste was discharged was found to have extremely high salt content.

Fracking waste also contains bromide, which should it end up in drinking water intakes and mix with chlorine at municipal water plants, would produce chemicals called trihalomethanes, which have been linked to cancer.

Injecting the waste into underground wells has been linked to earthquake activity in some states, including Ohio, West Virginia, Ohio and Arkansas.

A single fracking well can produce millions of gallons of wastewater, according to the Associated Press.  The briny wastewater contains trace amounts of the chemicals used in fracking fluids, some of which are carcinogenic.  It may also contain naturally-occurring brings contaminants as barium, strontium and radium from underground.



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