How might fracking waste come to the CT watershed Towns?
Current law requires the CT Dept of Environemntal and Energy Protection to draw up regulations for the storage and treatment of this waste by July 1, 2018. Depending on those regulations, this waste could be used as a road de-icer as it is in other states, as an additive to construction fill and to concrete often used to cap brownfields. It poses a threat of spillage while being transported and transferred to storage and treatment facilities. Over 6,600 such spills have occurred in other states. Owners of industrial sites could apply for permits to build new storage facilities. (The watershed town of Lewisboro, NY is in Westchester County which unanimously voted to ban fracking waste so it is protected.)
The chemicals—what are we talking about here. Of the hundreds of chemicals found in fracking waste, 56% have been examined and 44% we have little to no information about. Of the 56% more than half are soluble in water and over a third are volatile, meaning they can be inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through skin. The chemicals that have been studied, we know to cause cancer and affect the brain and nervous systems, the immune system, respiratory, circulatory, reproductive and endocrine systems, liver and skin. A new Yale study supports these numbers. https://news.yale.edu/2016/01/06/toxins-found-fracking-fluids-and-wastewater-study-shows
This is a taxpayer cost issue. Redding is already on the hook for paying for cleanup of the wire mill. This is a way to prevent future “21st Century Wire Mill” situations that could be similarly costly to taxpayers. Spills (of which over 6,600 have occurred nationwide) or leaching from contaminated fill can costs tens of millions to clean up. Radioactive waste that has spilled in other states takes 4000 years to break down and is simply too expensive to remediate. This is a way to protect against the problem by preventing it and/or providing a legal framework for requiring polluters to pay for cleanup—for example from a spill on interstate roadways. Entire counties in New York have passed this ban to prevent future remediation costs as has the state of Vermont and parts of Massachusetts and New Jersey.
This is an issue threatening our local economy. At the Ordinance Committee meeting in Norwalk in February, Richard Harris of Copps Island Oysters, who has devoted his life to protecting and improving water quality in the Norwalk River, pointed out that water quality in Norwalk Harbor is much improved over the last 20 years (reports available at norwakriver.org). He added that the oyster industry brings in a commercial harvest worth $30 million a year. This figure does not include the value of recreational oyster harvests. In Norwalk 77,000 acres are considered oyster grounds and roughly 600 people are directly involved in harvesting. This number does not include many hundreds more that make up the fringe employment, truck drivers, shippers, inspectors, etc. The kelp industry is a new arrival, with a defined market still emerging. Another new industry underway is a large-scale effort to raise oysters on land through the early larval stages when they are most open to predatory forces (aquaculture) and then releasing them to the wild once they set. All of these industries, established and emerging, involve food products and are predicated on clean water. One instance of contamination will shut down these businesses.
This is a watershed issue and a LI Sound issue. Of the few hazardous waste treatment plants in CT that could receive the waste water, two (Meriden and Bristol) have bans in place. That leaves Bridgeport as the primary remaining recipient. In Bridgeport waste would be treated and diluted and sent to Westport and Stamford wastewater treatment facilities where it would be treated in systems designed to treat sewage and then returned to LI Sound. As everyone knows, the Sound is a fragile and vitally important nursery for ocean life. It is crucial that we work to protect it in order to protect ocean life in the Atlantic at large. Radioactivity and chemical contamination have occurred in other states after treatment of fracking waste water. There has been bio-accumulation up the food chain resulting in fishing and other recreational activities posing health problems.
This is a drinking water issue for well owners. If chemicals from a spill seep down to the aquifer, which has happened several times in PA and other states, drinking water is contaminated. Period. Yale research has found traces of fracking chemicals in well water 5 years after contamination. The costs of repeated testing, legal action and remediation fall to homeowners. Restitution costs to municipalities and the state can be exorbitant.
Let’s send a message to Hartford. The state has failed to pass a ban three times in the last five years. The assembly has passed a statewide ban, but the state senate has failed to bring it to a vote. Local ordinances are a way to show Hartford that CT doesn’t want this waste by banning it from all six CT watershed towns. Ask your state representative to support the current Senate Bill 103, which would ban some types of waste from oil and gas extraction at the state level.
Other states have bans. Westchester County passed a permanent fracking waste ban in 2012, signed into law by the Republican County Executive. Republican-dominated Putnam County followed the next year. Across the Sound, Nassau & Suffolk Counties, passed waste bans years ago, and have gone back to amend and strengthen them since. All five boroughs of New York City banned fracking waste in 2016. The State of Vermont and many parts of New Jersey also have bans in place. It is time for Connecticut to wake up to the problem and do our part to protect Long Island Sound.
Who wrote the ban and how good is it? The ban CT towns are using was written by attorneys at Riverkeeper in Washington DC and it closes many loopholes that the current, and expiring, moratorium on fracking waste in CT allows. The ban is comprehensive and designed to protect public health, water quality and towns financially from remediation costs. See the basic ordinance language used in 35 towns so far.