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Frack Wastewater – Let’s Dump It On The Roads!

July 28, 2011
A Salt Brine Truck At Work

A Salt Brine Truck At Work

According to The Ithaca Journal, several municipalities in New York have approved the use of fracking waste water in road maintenance.  The flowback water from fracking contains salt, and is being called a “natural brine” to be used for winter snow and ice clearing, and dust management.  However, this flowback waste fluid also contains toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials.  Toxics Targeting, an environmental monitoring firm in Ithaca, has released documents showing the permits for, and the rationalizing of, this dangerous process.

You can take a look at the original documents released by Toxic Targeting and an interactive map of the areas to be affected on their website.

The documents show that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has approved the requests for multiple gas wells’ frack water to be used. According to the Ithaca Journal,

A.D. Call & Sons Excavating, of Stafford, N.Y., submitted a beneficial use determination application to the DEC for production brines from gas wells in Medina, Theresa and Queenston wells in February and March 2010. The DEC approved the request, with certain conditions, in April of the same year.

The conditions include requirements that the vehicles transporting or spraying the brine have the appropriate permits and spay bars must have shut-off mechanisms in the cabs of the trucks. Furthermore, the road spreading plans must be conducted in a manner that minimizes the chances of the brine running off into streams, creeks, lakes and other bodies of water. (my emphasis)

Isn’t this an admission that the brine run-off is NOT safe?  Does anyone actually believe that this water won’t find its way into New York’s waterways, including drinking water systems?

Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, relays the message that use of this water has not undergone any health risk assessment and is likely to be very unsafe.

The attitude is that it’s just salty water that comes up with the gas, but people are just going to be shocked that they were being exposed to the contaminated wastewater through DEC-sanctioned dumping programs without any comprehensive health assessment

It is not hard to imagine this wastewater flowing into aquifers and having serious health and environmental implications.  Who comes up with these ideas?

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14 Comments
  1. July 29, 2011 5:17 pm

    Topher, I’m sorry to say, i think it was Pennsylvania who came up with the idea! We already spray brine on roads for ice-melt and dust suppression. What’s more, our tax dollars pay for it. Municipalities and townships pay about 17¢ a gallon. And this year, for the first time, the City of Philadelphia budgeted millions for snow removal. Go figure. Liz R, KeepTapWaterSafe.org

    • August 3, 2011 4:38 pm

      Is the brine we spray on the roads in PA a product of Fracking? Does it include the toxic chemicals in flow back water? If it is I would definitely like to see some evidence of this practice.

  2. nngng permalink
    August 31, 2011 6:24 pm

    it’s no accident, they really want to poison our whole world

  3. Wata permalink
    November 10, 2011 10:45 am

    “If we can’t trust our public servants, then there is something wrong with the system.” – Anonymous Official, Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District, Watkins Glen, NY. 11-10-11, 11:20am

  4. Dianne Urda permalink
    November 13, 2011 9:20 am

    …and you wonder why we don’t trust the government? TEA

  5. Patrick Gleason permalink
    May 8, 2012 8:02 am

    Its not just the rivers and streams that we should be concerned about, we should also be looking into the possibility of what happens when this frack waste water works its way into the watertable and thru capillary action effects the surrounding farm land and thus inhibiting the production of healthy food. There is alot to be considered here, but be that as it may this should not be allowed to proceed.

  6. f hovis permalink
    October 19, 2012 10:28 am

    my thoughts exactly, Patrick. what about organic farmers, whether commercial or residential? soooo….the main question is, what can we do about it? do we contact our townships? or is this controlled by something much bigger than local municipality?

  7. October 21, 2012 5:23 am

    ALL the water on my neighborhood’s streets flows directly into the nearby creek which is already contaminated by decades of continuing, acid mine waste.

  8. amber permalink
    January 25, 2013 7:37 am

    Who ever thought of water fracking is an idiot I’m ashamed of this greedy person obviously money was all they thought of WHERE IS THE PETITION??????

  9. Hal permalink
    January 25, 2013 11:24 am

    Lots Safer than all the other junk they dump on the roads now, Been being used in many States already, and causes less roadway damage (can afford to fix them now)
    Take a look at rock salt “sodium chloride (NaCl)” and that wonderful “Calcium chloride” that rots out cars…….Both of them raise heck with the environment

    So either give up winter driving and stay home, or go with lesser of the evils.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      January 28, 2013 5:17 pm

      Hi Hal, you seem to not be clear about how salty fracking wastewater (flowback) is. Fracking flowback is generally 3 to 6 times saltier than ocean water. That is very, very salty — that’s why it’s used for de-icing. So flowback is much worse, not a lesser evil at all. It creates all the problems salt creates (turning our freshwater salty, damaging roads, harming aquatic life) and is full of the original fracking chemicals (endocrine disruptors, biocides, carcinogens and all) PLUS the toxic substances that occur in the deep rock, including radium 226, which causes bone, liver, and breast cancer as well as other damage to health. Obviously we do need to move to a society less dependent on cars, as you suggest. In the meantime, no fracking flowback on our roads!

  10. Jessie Tate permalink
    January 27, 2013 8:34 pm

    Even if it were sprayed in amounts that they argued wouldn’t wash off the road much before evaporating, all that would mean is ever increasing concentrations of toxic metals waiting for the next snow storm or rain. Those heavy metals would then runs off into streams, ponds, filter down through the soil, and make it your drinking water and food. If I lived out there I would be writing letters to officials and getting petitions together to stop it!

  11. John permalink
    February 9, 2013 3:35 pm

    This is link to the Harvard Law Center concerns on PA beneficial reuse of Marcellus wastewater.

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/clinical/elpc/publications/elpc-comments-on-wgmr064-final-11.16.11.pdf

    Very important it this is the attachments as well as the 30 some pages of concerns never addressed by PADEP. These attachments show high radioactive levels (over 10,000 picocuries per liter) of alpha, beta, and high radium 226, and radium 228. These attachments also show where this water was used on roads in PA. And there is a letter from NY on approval to dispose of drilling water.

    The EPA On -Scene Coordinator website provides link to many emergency (Removal Program) sites in New York and other states, and has the link to the Dimock, PA data

    http://www.epaosc.org/

    Click on the “more links” and then on map. The interesting part on Dimock is lots of samples were collected aside from the problem of methane. The rad parameters showed singel digit or tenths of a digit picocuries per liter (same units as above) and more reflective of what you might expect in normal upper bedrock. This supports that the wastewater analysis is very high compared to normal “background”

    The EPA RADNET DATABASE can be found at: http://iaspub.epa.gov/enviro/erams_query_v2.simple_query
    Again this is more like normal background in low picocuries per liter VERSUS the high wastewater samples in first paragraph.

    The radiation in drinking water ranges from data collected from the period 1978 to 2012 and the location average would be Pennsylvania, and the overall (multi-state) average includes Pennsylvania.
    The Gross Alpha consisted of 159 samples. The location average was 0.256 picocurie/liter with a range of below detection (0) to 8 picocuries/liter. The multi-state overall average was 1.42 picocurie/liter.

    The Gross Beta consisted of 160 samples. The location average was 2.34 picocuries/liter with a range of below detection (0) to 6.35 picocuries/liter. The multi-state overall average was 3.09 picocurie/liter.
    Note that in the above EPA monitoring the concentrations are well below the 10,000 plus picocuries/liter concentration.

    The Radium-226 consisted of 86 samples. The location average was 0.00922 picocurie/liter with a range of 0.07 to 0.2 picocuries/liter. The multi-state overall average was 0.356 picocurie/liter.

    The Radium-228 consisted of 120 samples. The location average was 0.00258 picocurie/liter with a range of non detect to one sample of 0.31 picocuries/liter. The multi-state overall average was 0.0688 picocurie/liter.
    Note that the above EPA Radium 226 and Radium 228 concentrations are well below 892 and 2,589 picocuries/liter in the wastewater samples noted below.

    Now PADEP is doing a radiation survey of Marcellus cuttings, wastewater, and other media. A great idea but some concerns I had asked Harrisburg DEP over a year ago might still be of concern.

    The PADEP News Release is at:

    http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/news_releases/14288

    “Drill cuttings and other materials associated with oil and gas have occasionally triggered radiation monitors at landfills. DEP’s data indicates that less than half a percent of all drill cuttings produced by the Marcellus Shale industry in 2012 that were disposed of in landfills triggered radiation monitors. The cuttings did not contain levels of radioactivity that would be harmful to the public, and they were safely disposed of in the landfills.”
    However, one question that could have been easily answered but was not was in an email to PADEP dated February 20, 2011. This email (attached to this email) was mainly on the Hazleton reclamation site but also had concerns on drill cuttings proposed for unlined reclamation sites and lined landfills.This was one of the concerns from this email that the PADEP Office of Chief Counsel would not allow to address due to (unrelated) litigation.

    “4. Are the typical radiation (example: Ludlum Model 375P-1000 for area landfill monitoing adequate to measure potentially radioactive parameters associated with the Marcellus formation and other marine shale formations above the Marcellus formation?”

    The main point is that landfill radiation monitors are typically well above the incoming trucks and not sure but believe this is for gamma radiation. Yet, to measure alpha or beta radiation you would need to have detectors almost on top of the waste to do this correctly. Alpha and beta can easily be blocked even by normal clothes BUT breathing in dust with radioactive elements emitting this type of radiation can possibly be a serious health hazard. Feel free to comment on any misconceptions that I have on landfill radiation monitors but believe this was a serious question never responded to by PADEP approaching two years. I believe if you look at the attached email there are no unreasonable questions. Are the typical landfill radiation detectors installed at landfills adequate for alpha and beta radiation? I am no expert on landfill monitors but do recall that you need to almost be on top of alpha and beta radiation sources to detect problems. Also it seems that radioactive emitters do not necessarily always have proportional alpha, beta, and GAMMA radiation. Seems to be a question that would not require years to answer. Another factor that is important is that cuttings are typically saturated with the Marcellus water. The liquid is typically absorbed with addition of sawdust or alkalne waste materials. The point of this statement is that the high documented concentrations in water would also be on this added material.

    Another concern is using abandoned mine water (acid mine drainage) for water supply in drilling and fracking leads to other questions also submitted to Harrisburg.

    The PADEP appears to be encouraging the use of mine water from abandoned mine areas in Pennsylvania. Another possible good use of non potable water but again serious concerns should be considered regarding storage in unlined pits and impoundments and unknown reactions when mixed with the lower formations (Marcellus and others) that are of marine nature. It would seem that anticipated leakage into used upper aquifers from storage in unlined facilities will happen from past experience rather than just a theoretical possibility.

    Typically these mine waters have low pH, sulphates, iron, manganese but may also contain toxic metals (selenium, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and other metals not proposed to be tested for it would appear. The options allow unlined pit and impoundment storage. This would seem to provide a very possible potential for leakage into the upper used aquifers as well as unknown effects of mixing with the Marcellus relatively high background radiation, volatile organics, semi-volatile organics, metals, salts, and gases. Note that there may be mine water considered from former landfill or cleanup projects that could easily add additional contaminants. The proposed sampling in the PADEP White Paper states the proposed samples. However, many of the toxic parameters of the commonly tested USEPA Target Compound List (TAL) are omitted from this sampling.

    http://files.dep.state.pa.us/Mining/Abandoned%20Mine%20Reclamation/AbandonedMinePortalFiles/MIW/Final_MIW_White_Paper.pdf

    http://files.dep.state.pa.us/Mining/Abandoned%20Mine%20Reclamation/AbandonedMinePortalFiles/MIW/Fina

    files.dep.state.pa.us
    The last source is a good four part article on Marcellus that goes into the alleged health effects for a truck driver, and more on normal radiation.

    http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/fracking-wastewater-can-be-highly-radioactive/article_ac1dd0e8-5a2f-57aa-8c5d-1d80273e261e.html

  12. lisa ellerby permalink
    February 20, 2013 8:54 pm

    Please help with a petition I made recently at http://signon.org/sign/stop-using-toxic-fracking. I hope to deliver it to Cuomo, NY Assembly and Senate on 2/26. More signatures will help get this closer to a bill, please help get the word out! The petition asks that fracking brine use stop and that the public be notified when and where it is in use. Thanks for all you do.

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