Got Frack Waste?
Oct 01, 2014 07:26PM
● By Emily Reuman
With no hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, wells in New Jersey yet, we at Food & Water Watch are often asked, “How can fracking affect me and my family?” One might be surprised to know the effects of fracking have already entered our state—quite literally—in the form of heavily polluted, radioactive, fracking waste shipments.
Without rules to govern safe handling of this toxic, carcinogenic waste, companies are left with few options for safe disposal. Ultimately, this endangers the workers that handle it, communities along the waste disposal route and the families in areas that receive the waste.
Fracking waste is the polluted brine that’s produced by the process. Fracking a shale gas well requires millions of gallons of fracking fluid. Drillers pump a cocktail of water, sand and a mix of corrosive chemicals into each well, some over two miles underground. The mix is shot at high pressure into the shale rock to break into small pockets of gas which flows up the well. Twenty-five to 75 percent of fluid pumped down stays below and the rest returns to the surface as brine or “produced water.” Exempt from hazardous waste and environmental laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act, drillers have sent this waste to water treatment facilities and landfills in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, reinjection wells in Ohio and landfills in New York.
Efforts to restore clean water and air protections have been stymied. Fluid ‘recipes’ are proprietary—companies aren’t required to disclose the chemicals permanently left in the ground or what’s disposed of in other ways. Frack waste has been shown to contain amounts of carcinogenic naphthalene, benzene and acrylamide, plus may include toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes. It also contains traces of radium-226 radioactivity from bedrock, and conventional treatment facilities aren’t equipped to treat it.
A Duke University study found dangerously elevated levels of radioactivity and salinity in both sediment and aquatic life downstream from facilities treating frack waste, contaminating drinking water and harming aquatic life essential for recreation and commercial fishing. These water supplies feed into water sources for Pittsburgh and the region.
According to Pennsylvania DEP records, over 100 shipments of frack waste have been sent to facilities in Carteret, Kearny and Elizabeth, and South Jersey’s DuPont facility in Deepwater for disposal. Without adequate cleansing techniques, these chemical contaminants may end up in New Jersey water, soil, and ultimately, the bodies of state residents.
Companies like American Water Works Co., of Voorhees, have said that frack water treatment could play a significant role in growing their business, potentially at the expense of clean New Jersey water supplies.
New Jersey is not a dumping ground for toxic waste. Already, the state hosts the highest number of toxic-contaminated Superfund sites in the county. In 2012, New Jersey passed legislation to ban frack waste from entering the state, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill with the justification that it violates the Interstate Commerce Clause. However, the bi-partisan Office of Legislative Services confirms the legislation is constitutional as all frack waste is treated equally, regardless of source.
Taking action is easier than ever! Contact Senator Stephen M. Sweeney at 856-251-9801 and tell him that New Jersey is the Garden State, not the Toxic Waste State. Attend a meeting of our local Cooper River Group at the Collingswood Public Library the first Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. or the Gloucester County Group at the Glassboro Public Library the second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.
For more information, call Emily Reuman at 732-839-0878 or email [email protected].