Local residents are alarmed by a deal between natural gas companies and the Niagara Falls Water Board that could mean toxic hydraulic fracturing waste will be released into the water supply just a few miles upstream from the massive Niagara Falls international waterfall.
When large industrial firms fled the recession-stricken area, the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant was left operating far below capacity. Loss of revenue led the town to become the first in New York State to agree to process fracking waste.
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. The fracking process has also been known to release radioactive elements such as radon and uranium into the waste.
Niagara Falls residents and environmental groups crammed into the September meeting of the Niagara Falls Water Board to voice their concerns about the town’s motivation for pursuing such deal.
Water from the treatment plant would be released into the Niagara River, which flows into Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario, and other Great Lakes communities. Critics say there is no evidence that the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant could filter out the radiation or the chemicals found in the wastewater.
New York Department of Conservation Commissioner Martens has directly stated that no wastewater treatment plants in the state are equipped to treat or permitted to accept wastewater with the range of contaminants expected to be in the fluids produced from high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Costly upgrades for the plant, as well as increased costs for infrastructure repairs from excess truck traffic, are immediate concerns for an already struggling local economy.
“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,” said Rita Yelda of Food & Water Watch. “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?”
Last year, New York declared a year-long ban on fracking operations so officials could study its potential impacts on human and environmental health. In July 2011, the state Department of Environmental Protection recommended lifting the ban and regulating drilling despite lingering questions about public safety.
Those in the area are invited to voice their concerns at the October meeting of the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Board tomorrow. The meeting takes place at Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant, 5815 Buffalo Ave, Niagara Falls, at 5 pm.
Image Credit: Flickr – Kevin Timothy