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?
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