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New York Roads Are Covered in Snow and Fracking Waste

New York Roads Are Covered in Snow and Fracking Waste

Written by Ronnie Citron-Fink

As the first snow fell, the dogs and I watched the white powder quickly turn to ice. This put a temporary kibosh on our walk along my rural road. With snowy spirits dampened, we’d have to wait for the snowplow. I headed back to my computer to see when the icy mix was going to end and came across this headline: “Environmental Group Warns Of Fracking Waste on NY.”

Wait a minute, my state has moratorium on fracking, I thought. As natural gas development in surrounding states wreaks havoc on their air and water, fracking is currently on hold in New York State. We’re waiting to see whether or not Governor Andrew Cuomo will ban or allow natural gas development. So far, he’s heeded public outcry and is letting science lead policy by waiting for a health-impact review.

Yet, as frosty winter takes hold in New York, more than a dozen municipalities have received state approval to spread a natural gas byproduct on their roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization. This fluid is called production brine.

A local New York environmental group, Riverkeeper, which focuses on the health of the Hudson River, says the state has approved the use of fracking waste fluids on our roads, even though studies have not been conducted to determine whether there are harmful impacts.

According to Capital New York, Riverkeeper is not officially opposed to fracking, but it wants the gas industry to be heavily regulated and to ensure safety should Gov. Andrew Cuomo decide to lift the moratorium that has been in place since 2008. As Riverkeeper scientist Bill Wegner says:

The biggest concern is the carcinogens; you don’t want that to get into drinking water supplies… It can also contain naturally-occurring radioactive materials. And while chloride is contained in the road salt commonly used across the country, it is far more concentrated in fracking waste. Some of the brine is a waste product that comes from natural gas storage facilities. Thirteen municipalities received state permission to use fracking brine, which comes out of wells, and 10 use brine that is removed from natural gas after it has been stored for a while. Both contain pollutants.

As if this wasn’t enough to make this snow-loving gal pack up the pooches and move south, Riverkeeper attorney Misti Duvall added:

…the use of fracking brine in the state is concerning because it’s not easy to tell what is in the mix being applied to roads. In fact, Riverkeeper found the state doesn’t always track the source of the brine. What’s more, the state also permits the storage of waste that comes from high-volume hydrofracked wells in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, which have much higher concentrations of dangerous chemicals… It’s difficult to track where that fluid is coming from and where it is going… In addition to road spreading, we are concerned about disposal of fracking waste at New York landfills and wastewater treatment facilities that are unequipped to handle it.

Digging into this further, I found other states are also grappling with this potentially harmful issue:

Bruce Duncanson of Lincoln, Ohio, said he organized neighbors in his hometown to ask public officials to reconsider spraying of fracking wastewater brine on the local roads to melt ice during the winter. Several municipalities in Ohio and beyond have used fracking wastewater by-products to de-ice roads.

New York State Senator Terry Gipson said he hopes the state will ban the use of fracking waste as a de-icer and currently has a bill in committee.

What’s so bad about spreading this untested, unregulated, polluting de-icer on New York’s snowy roads?

Everything.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

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107 comments

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5:40PM PST on Jan 10, 2014

Very sad to hear, having been born in Ney York state (lo those many years ago). Having lived in northwestern PA for the last 1/2 year, very close to the NY border and surrounded by fracking, it's very overwhelming. I hope that NY does better than PA is currently doing.

8:12AM PST on Dec 22, 2013

WHAT?? how stupid &idiotic ! how is using toxic brine to de ice roads ok? what the hell is wrong with people? we over pay these morons to poison our food and now our water That brine reaches waterways killing the plants and animals along the way We might as well start committing suicide I'd rather die quickly then suffer with cancer because of stupid politicians making assinine decisions

4:27AM PST on Dec 19, 2013

I can hardly wait for algal biodiesel to replace petroleum, and methane salvaged from waste to replace natural gas (methane from dinosaur waste millions of years old), and geothermal energy to replace coal. Meanwhile, I hope the powers that be can find a safe place to store that used fracking fluid until it is needed for fracking the hot rock reservoirs of enhanced geothermal systems. And of course, some nice wind turbines (vertical axis please to cut down on bird strikes) and solar panels to supplement the enhanced geothermal systems for electricity.

1:19PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

niestety

1:11PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

yuck.

12:44PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

Just when I think we're becoming a tiny bit more environmnetally enlightened, something as stupid as this happens, and I realize the patients are running the asylum.

4:51AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

thank you

7:05AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

OMG. unbelievable.

11:36PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

I wonder what this crap will do to all of the creatures that it contacts. Also what will it do to the vehicles that drive on it.

10:38PM PST on Dec 16, 2013

This is a terrible threat to public health.

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