Niagara Falls Water Board Leave Community's Questions Unanswered
In July, the Niagara Falls Water Board was reported to be exploring the possibility of treating wastewater containing toxic chemicals resulting from the unconventional shale gas drilling known as fracking. Yet there is little evidence that the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant can filter out the radiation or the chemicals found in fracking wastewater, and no analysis of the possible impacts of treating this wastewater has been shared with the public.
Fracking fluid consists primarily of water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals that includes many toxins and known carcinogens: methanol, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, napthalene, benzene, toluene and xylene. To date, more than 600 chemicals have been found in fracking fluid. The fracking process has also been known to release radioactive elements into the wastewater, such as radon and uranium. New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) figures show 6.6 billion gallons of fracking waste would have to be disposed of each year.
At a meeting on September 22, Food & Water Watch and WNY Drilling Defense submitted a document with 25 questions for the Niagara Falls Waste Treatment Plant and Water Board. The questions highlight concerns expressed by community members about how the decision to accept fracking wastewater could affect the safety of residents in the Niagara Falls and Great Lakes area. Questions included: “Will the public be made aware of the chemicals that are being transported on their streets?" and "What plan is being created in case of an accident with a tanker truck carrying the waste?". The two groups want the Board to answer these questions and make the answers available to the public before making a decision about accepting the waste. The Niagara Falls Water Board has yet to answer these critical questions and inform the public of what's going on as many of the developments stay hidden.
Niagara Falls is the first location in New York to state their desire to treat this waste. A report issued in September indicated that an outside firm has completed a feasibility study and that the Water Board is moving forward with the plan to treat fracking wastewater. According to the plan, water from the treatment plant would be released into the Niagara River, which flows into Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario, and other Great Lakes communities, creating potential regional and even international concern. The Council of Canadians released a letter to the Niagara Falls Water Board asking them to not accept the waste as it poses a threat to the Great Lakes. That letter can be downloaded here. In Pennsylvania, where hydrofracking is happening in full force, the Department of Environmental Protection asked the gas industry to stop taking fracking wastewater to municipal wastewater treatment plants, after concerning levels of radioactive compounds were detected in the state's waterways.
If this fracking waste is not treated correctly, it could contaminate our water. With the Niagara River already on the 303(d) Clean Water Act list of impaired waterways, we should take a serious look at the risks before looking at the dollar signs. We don't want this to be another 'Love Canal'. This region is known for its tourism and beautiful natural landmarks. Why would we risk that? We hope you'll join us at the next meeting of the Niagara Falls Water Board on October 20th where we talk about the additional economic hardships this will bring on a city whose median family income is $20,000 less than the U.S. average.
In an August ProPublica interview, DEC Commissioner Martens stated that currently no wastewater treatment plants in New York are equipped to treat or permitted to accept wastewater with the range of contaminants expected to be in fluids produced from high-volume hydraulic fracturing. The Niagara Falls Water Treatment plant would need to undergo what would likely become costly upgrades and modifications before they could accept the waste.
The DEC currently has a short open comment period on the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) until December 12, 2011. Click here to submit your comment. On September 28, the DEC came out with regulations not only for drilling, but also for wastewater disposal, which is what the Niagara Falls Water Board has been waiting for to apply for their permit to accept hydrofracking waste. The four meetings held around the state will relate not only to the SGEIS, but also to the regulations that affect areas who face the burden of treatment and disposal of hydrofracking wastewater. The closest meeting to Western New York will be on November 16, 2011 from 1 PM and 6 PM at Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton Street, Dansville, NY.
The Niagara Falls Water Board will hold their next monthly public meeting on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 5 PM at the Water Treatment Plant, 5815 Buffalo Avenue, Niagara Falls, NY. Western New Yorkers will raise their voices on Thursday with a chorus calling out for answers about their health and their water. Those who wish to speak should sign up before the meeting. November's meeting is on the 23rd at 5pm at the same location. Citizens need to pack these meetings and make it overwhelmingly clear that this is a sick, toxic way to make a buck. Our health and our water comes first!