NYC Paying Heed to HydroFracking

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1 March 2011

Today, March 1, the NYC Council is holding a hearing on continued regulatory issues surrounding hydrofracking (the subject of the film GASLAND) – the Halliburton-developed process for extracting natural gas from shale. Why should you care?  Because the process poses serious threats to the safety of drinking water, i.e. the entire New York watershed.

It was disappointing that GASLAND did not win the Oscar for Best Documentary.  I hope you’ll go see it anyway; it’s educational, disturbing, and weirdly entertaining, in that “Are you kidding me?” kind of way.

The NY Times finally did a major article on the issue, published this past Sunday.  Here is an excerpt:

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—or hydrofracking—carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene, and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

As for me, I live part-time in Pennsylvania, 1/2 mile from a well site (they’ve already drilled the “test well”), which is very upsetting.  See the movie – you’ll be glad to be informed on this issue!

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