New Environment Bulletin Number 387
Syracuse, N.Y (June 27, 2011)
It is possible that either The Wyoming Valley Sanitation Authority (WVSA) or The Lower Lackawanna Sanitation Authority (LLSA) will build a treatment plant for hydraulic fracturing (frack) waste water, adding to their existing facility. WVSA is adjoining Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a block away from the Carey Avenue Bridge, and LLSA is in Duryea, both on the Susquehanna River. Either one or both of these plants could treat a large proportion of the frack water from Northeastern Pennsylvania and South Eastern New York.
WVSA has looked into this possibility carefully and has dropped plans for now mainly because of the truck traffic it would cause in residential neighborhoods. If either of these plants treat frack water in the future, it may be transported to these plants on 5000 gallon tanker trucks at the rate of one truck every five minutes, maybe day and night. Indeed a million gallons of frack water a day could be coming to Wyoming Valley. And what is in this water? This is how Dr. Thomas Jiunta1 describes the chemicals added to the water:
“over 300 of them in an average fracking solution, have been revealed by scientists, to be at least 75 percent hazardous to our health, including many cancer-causing substances. Not only are the additives carcinogenic and proven endocrine disrupters, but unfortunately the fracturing process causes normally underground toxic organic and inorganic substances and heavy metals to come to the surface. These include volatile organic solvents naturally found underground such as the methane extracted and also compounds, such as benzene, toluene and propane. They also include heavy metals which are trapped in the shale and are then soluble in the mixture that comes back up including: Lead, arsenic, mercury, barium, chromium and strontium. In addition, brine is extracted which ranges from sea water type salinity to six times this salinity. Radioactive elements which are normally found under ground, are brought up.”
With all of those trucks passing through towns in the valley for decades into the future, there are bound to be leaks, spills and catastrophic crashes. In addition we need to guard against air pollution from the water being processed at the our local sanitation authorities. Laura Legere, Staff Writer for the Citizen’s Voice2 reported: “a centralized impoundment that holds the waste water from 10 wells could theoretically release 32.5 tons of methanol into the air each year – meaning it could qualify as a “major” source of toxic air pollutants under federal rules.” We can expect that waste water from many more than ten wells will be held at the treatment facility, and so we are threatened by toxic air pollution in the Wyoming Valley.
The function of the treatment plant at our sanitation authorities would be to separate chemicals from the frack water, and then ship it back to be reused in the drilling operations. The sediment from this process will contain these hazardous chemicals. According to published reports the plan is to deposit the sediment in state approved land fills. These chemicals such as elements arsenic, cadmium and radium last for thousands of years, while a typical land fill holds waste for only twenty years, after which it leaks into the environment. Thus the land fill solution to waste storage may be only temporary, and future generations will be saddled with our waste again. To illustrate this issue consider radium.
Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D.3 studied the radioactivity on rock pieces in the flow back from drilling operations and concluded the following:
* Radioactivity in Marcellus is 20 times higher than background.
* Radium-226 is soluble in water and is in waste water
* Drilling fluid is reused many times and some Radium-226 can accumulate each time.
* Ra-226 is a carcinogen so causes cancer.
* This could cause landfill workers to be exposed.
* 1600 years is the half-life of Ra-226,
Since the radioactivity of individual trucks may be below the ability of landfill radiation detectors to measure, large amounts of radio activity in the waste may not be detected until they build up over time in the landfill.
Resnikoff further concludes:
Workers at a landfill where drill cuttings are dumped can be expected to exceed the health-base dose limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the NRC.
Based on calculations radiation exposures received by a future resident farmer of the land at the landfill will exceed allowable regulatory limits.
Radioactive scale cuttings and fluids are more appropriately deposited in a radioactive land fill designated for this disposal.
Thus we can conclude that the typical land fill with a 20 year lifetime may be inadequate to protect the environment from these hazardous and radioactive chemicals. Resnikoff recommends use of a nuclear waste land fill which is designed to hold for 1000 years. (Is that enough time, given a 1600 year half-life of the radium?) Also the constantly reused frack water can be expected to become increasingly radioactive. Indeed radioactivity in the truck parts, in particular in rust builds up over time, so that the drivers may become increasingly threatened with excess radiation exposure and may need to be considered nuclear hazardous material workers and regulated as such.
In conclusion, if we get to the point of having a million gallons per day of Marcellus Shale drilling waste water processed in the valley, we will need to take many precautions to avoid its health and environmental threats.
(1) “Letter to the Editor”, Thomas Jiunta Wilkes-Barre, PA: Citizens Voice (May 13, 2010)
(2) “Wastewater: A risky business” Laura Legere (Staff Writer) Wilkes-Barre: Citizen’s Voice, June 22, 2010.
(3) “Radioactivity in Marcellus Shale,” Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., 526 W. 26th Street #517, New York, NY 10001 : Radioactive Waste Management Associates, (May 19, 2010).
See also: “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement On The Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Regulatory Program” NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Mineral Resources, Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation 652 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Albany, NY 9 (September, 2009).
June 1, 2011
There will be tens of thousands of gas wells drilled and fracked over the next two decades using slick water horizontal hydrofracking
This Massive-Scale Gas Drilling Will Bring You:
Lower Property Values
Polluted and Unusable Water
The loss of rivers of water to the earth deep below.
Toxic Waste (heavy metals, carcinogens, brine and radioactive materials) (10 to 30 tons of chemicals per well)
Open Waste Pits
Carcinogens Left Underground
Depleted Water Habitat
Loss of Farmland
Loss of Tourism
Disrupted Wildlife Habitat
Higher Crime Rate
Choking Truck Traffic
Lower Quality of Life (why do you love this place?)
Loss of habitat
Dubious Farm Products
Increased Health Costs
Increased Infrastructure Costs
Educate yourself and take action!
Don’t be fooled by the propaganda you see on television and billboards.
All this is happening within the context of:
Machine-like Corporate values (IE the maximization of profit)
Political values (IE re-election is the god)
Mismanagement and disregard for the community (see Accidents and Violations Section here and elsewhere).
Then mix in weakened laws, a depleted DEP, and rapid expansion.
Isn’t this a case for MORATORIUM!?
I initially posted this story and its related document two days ago and then pulled it after several hours. Here is why I originally yanked it, and eventually re-posted it.
Upon originally skimming the Talking Points document, I felt it gave concrete proof of what the anti frack/ pro change movement has been charging all along. I thought the handbook was so chillingly manipulative and deliberate, it would contribute to the growing awareness and discontent. So I posted it
But after a second read, I began to wonder if it was legitimate. It seemed too blatant. Too contrived. How could someone be so naive and/or arrogant to print this? Perhaps it was a fabrication of some sort. I wondered. So I suspended the post and did a bit more searching and reasoning.
First, I thought back on how blatant and sophomoric the industry’s style has been thus far.
I recalled the first zoning meeting at the Luzerne County Courthouse. EnCana’s presenters were not their usual people like Joel Fox and Wendy Wiedenbeck. Rather, it was two young attractive women sporting cleavage and long legs. They were marketing lightweights, there for eye candy purposes only. How blatant! (Audrey Simpson has the whole thing on tape.)
Then I thought of Dimock. How violating! The community was occupied and transformed by a soulless corporate entity with the full backing of an equally soulless state. And when people spoke up, they were spied upon and marginalized. Some day their survivors will win big law suits.
And then I considered the buying of Corbett, the lobbyists, billboards, commercials, sponsorships (compromising the likes of WVIA and Penn State), flag waving, “clean gas” propaganda, and “jobs, jobs, jobs,”… All the while: the violations, spills, accidents, explosions, deaths, injuries, dumping, diving land values, foreign investment, water depletion, well spoilage, lack of oversight, expedited permitting, and on and on…
Why these heartless bastards even put drill pads next to schools! Blatant!
So I came to the conclusion that these companies are capable of anything immoral, sophomoric, and stupid.
Secondly, the document is consistent with reports on landman tactics that I have heard and read.
So, here it is again:
A post by John Trallo in the Susquehanna County Gas Forum:
For immediate release to all media outlets:
This document (see attached) marked: ” Proprietary – Do Not Distribute ” was ‘dropped’ by a land man and ‘fell’ into my hands.
This is a section of a ‘land man’s handbook’ on how to acquire oil/gas/mineral leases using false claims, misinformation, careful wording, half-truths, lies, and lying by omission. It clearly demonstrates that the oil and gas industry know exactly what they’re doing, and are completely aware of the ground water contamination, radiation, loss of property, loss of property value, and loss of quality of life. They know exactly how this industrialization will ruin a community.
This may be the most damaging evidence we have .
Pass this on to each and every investigative reporter, journalist, newspaper, environmental advocacy group, and legal defense group. Pass it on to all citizens who are concerned about the dangers of natural gas drilling, too.
See the document HERE: Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights
We must try every possible (and impossible) avenue, strategy, tactic, and maneuver we can think of to stop the ruination of Pennsylvania by the gas drilling industry. Whether it is a protected species or place. Whether it is super inflated performance bonding. Or, perhaps, the discovery of forgotten laws. Moratoriums, and rights ordinances. Political and populist activism. Consciousness raising, demonstrating, civil disobedience … There is no one way. When you are in a fight, you don’t use just one hand. You use your whole body and spirit to defeat the invader.
Here is a letter to a state representative, asking that Harveys Lake be considered “exceptional”. While it can be argued that all bodies of water are exceptional, the state does have that designation to consider as a solution for this particular body of water. Why not try it?
It has come to our attention that DEP issued a drilling permit on Dec. 3rd for a gas well on Sterling Farms in Wyoming County. This is about a mile from our lake. It is inconceivable that an agency charged with protecting our environment could issue a permit for drilling within such close proximity to the lake.
I see in today’s Citizens’ Voice that the state is nearing a decision on making Silver Lake (also a glacial lake) a designated “exceptional value” watershed, which will prohibit gas drilling activities in that area. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the citizens need to be pointing out to the DEP where these exceptional water sheds exist! Do they do any research before handing out these drilling permits?
A single accident like the one in Clearfiled County in June can potentially destroy Harveys Lake. This would be a crime of significant proportions.
Throughout the years, DEP has had a great deal of influence on protecting our lake. Our public sewer system was state mandated, as is the current moratorium on any new connections to this system. Residents are experiencing difficulty in obtaining permits from DEP to build docks on their shoreline property because of the potential to harm plankton. We have our own ordinance banning the use of port-a-potties/job johnnies because of the potential leakage into the lake. It is ludicrous to allow gas drilling so close to this lake!
I am asking for your immediate attention as I consider this a matter of urgency! Please do whatever you can to stop this madness. Harveys Lake is the state’s largest natural freshwater lake and is pristine. If that doesn’t qualify it for “:exceptional value” status, I don’t know what does! – Michell’e Boice (letter to Representative Karen Boback)
“Dry Baby dry!” has been Audrey Simpson’s battle cry (and prayer) since she first heard of EnCana’s plans to drill three experimental horizontal gas wells in the Back Mountain region of Northeast Penn’s Woods.
We first met Audrey on January 14, 2010. She was video taping a presentation by EnCana to the Back Mountain Community Partnership. I recall how simplistic and benign EnCana’s presentation was. They did not mention trainloads of chemicals, just some water and sand. When we publicly questioned them, they became defensive and contentious.
After the meeting, Audrey approached Karen, Leanne and I, “We have to organize!”. Then she introduced herself. She had been following this Marcellus “play” for a while and she knew it was bad mojo.
That was the beginning of NoDrillNEPA which eventually merged with Tom Jiunta’s group (Luzerne County Citizens for Clean Water) to become GDAC – Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition.
I called Simpson tonight to discuss the news that EnCana was pulling out of Luzerne and Columbia Counties. We recalled that back in January, we saw this outcome as a remote possibility. Here it was nine months later, and the dream was now reality.
This may be good news for the Back Mountain, but EnCana’s departure is totally fortuitous. Like being spared of small pox while others around you are wasting away.
The Susquehanna, Delaware, Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio remain threatened and suffering. Thousands of fellow citizens continue to be treated as guinea pigs, The Pennsylvania State Constitution continues to be usurped. Citizens will have their properties seized by private entities. Our governor will pay back the gas industry for its contributions to his campaign.
Ours was a chance victory in a large war. This won’t be won without a constitutional battle. For the time being we must do everything we can to help slow, stall, challenge, and ban this supposed juggernaut. Place by place. Day by day.
Otherwise, they will be back.
I would think this EnCana announcement will not effect the continuing attempts to traverse the area with pipeline.
Always remember, the landmen were there when we were not. We must find a way to help struggling family farms. They are the backbone of rural Pennsylvania.
We need to re-think and re-tool for a green humanscale future. It is the only sane path.