Strapped for Cash, Cities Face the Temptation to Become Dumping Grounds for the Nasty By-Products of Fracking
Officials of the Niagara Falls water utility seized on a new moneymaking idea last year: treat toxic waste from natural-gas drilling at its sewage-treatment plant once hydrofracking gets under way in New York State. The plan is tempting, because the wealthy fracking industry puts out lots of very nasty waste water and there is cash to be made in getting rid of it.
But the idea of having fracking fluids trucked into the city, treated and discharged into the Niagara River was frightening to local residents, many of whom still recall the Love Canal environmental crisis of the 1970s. So in a one-sided vote, the Niagara Falls City Council rejected the proposal, banning the treatment, transport, storage and disposal of drilling fluids within city limits.
Most of the waste water from conventional gas wells in NY is disposed of by standard sewage treatment plants. Some of it is used to de-ice roads or to tamp down dust. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has said that the state should ban the use of fracking brine on roads because pollutants could make their way into aquifers and waterways through infiltration and storm water runoff.
There is no clear-cut plan for dealing with the tremendous waste production from the thousands of fracking sites that seem to loom as the future problem of New York and other states. Should we not demand a stop now in the process until a reasonable plan of waste disposal is in place? Nuclear waste, after all, has been collecting for decades and we still don’t have a workable plan for what to do with it.