New Jersey lawmakers have moved a step closer to banning the import of waste water from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling operations in the region at any municipal water treatment facilities.
According to a report at NJspotlight.com, the state’s Senate Environment and Energy Committee has unanimously approved legislation that would ban any municipal water treatment facility from accepting waste water from fracking wells in neighboring states like New York and Pennsylvania. In those states, what to do with fracking waste water is only the latest hurdle in the struggle to regulate fracking drilling and conduct it in a somewhat safe manner.
Fracking waste water is highly toxic and common municipal treatment facilities have proven unable to remove the most dangerous elements from it. If this water is not properly treated it will likely be filtered into the public drinking water supply where it could endanger millions of people. In Pennsylvania, there is just one water treatment facility that’s able to remove the toxins from fracking waste water. Studies on the contents of fracking waste water note that it contains naturally-occurring radioactive toxins and the dangerous chemicals used during the controversial drilling process.
There are no fracking wells in New Jersey but thousands are open and active in neighboring states, meaning there is considerable volume of waste water. Each well requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water to conduct the fracking process. Most of it is rushed back to the surface once natural gas is released from underground shale. It should be collected and stored until it can be properly disposed.
Some lawmakers in New Jersey are concerned that some water treatment facilities in the state have already begun accepting waste water. They pointed to evidence from Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators that water used at wells in that state has been taken to New Jersey for treatment. Pennsylvania has struggled with what to do with its volume of fracking waste water, as has New York. Both states do not use underground injection wells, which are employed in some states where fracking activity has also boomed. Instead, they insist on taking the fluids to water treatment facilities for filtration.
This presents an added danger to an energy exploration process that many already consider dangerous and toxic. People living closest to active fracking wells complain they put a strain on natural resources, contaminate ground water and private water wells, underground aquifers, and the air surrounding them.
States and local municipalities are struggling to compensate for lax federal regulations on fracking drilling, including what to do with waste water. Federal regulations do not make any recommendations or rules on how to properly dispose of fracking waste water.