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Fracking waste in NYC drinking water? Officials urge permanent ban

Friday Is Last Day to Submit Comments

March 29, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa. AP file photo by Ralph Wilson
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An issue being decided by a commission most New Yorkers have never heard of has the potential to affect the health and economy of New York City.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is in the process of deciding on new regulations concerning natural gas development, fracking and wastewater disposal in the Delaware River Basin — the source of more than half of New York City’s drinking water.

Friday is the last day to submit comments to the commission, and environmental groups and elected officials are urging New Yorkers to make their voices heard before the clock runs out.

On Wednesday, 40 members of the Assembly, Senate and City Council released a letter to DRBC, urging them to implement a permanent ban.

Signatories include Brooklyn Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope-Windsor Terrace) state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Brooklyn Heights-Greenpoint-Lower Manhattan), Council Speaker Corey Johnson (Hell’s Kitchen-Times Square) and 37 others.

More than 15 million people rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, farming and industrial uses.

While DRBC’s draft proposal would ban hydraulic fracking in the basin, the proposal would allow companies to store, treat and discharge fracking wastewater in the Delaware River Watershed and allow clean water to be taken out to enable more fracking.

Officials say that DRBC has had a de facto prohibition in place on all natural gas extraction projects in the basin since 2010, and that DRBC has prohibited wastewater produced by fracking since that time.

However, a spokesman for DRBC told NPR that is no de facto prohibition, and that the new rule represents “a significant tightening of the basin’s protections.”

Among the proposed regulations is a requirement that waste water operators would need DRBC approval to bring in any amount of frack waste for treatment, a stricter requirement than the current rule requiring commission approval for 50,000 gallons or more, Clarke Rupert told NPR.

Some individual landowners Pennsylvania, seeking to lease their land for gas exploration, have opposed a fracking ban.

Environmental advocates, such as the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, say the potential for toxic wastewater leaks is too great, especially considering the chronically underfunded and understaffed condition of the state agencies which would oversee the regulations.

‘Significant Evidence’ of the Dangers of Fracking

In their letter, NYC officials say that there is “significant evidence” that natural gas development and related operations “have substantial adverse effects on public health, property interests, agriculture, air, water and land. This includes all the phases of the [fracking] process, from the first stage of industrial land preparation; to the storage, handling, and use of chemicals and additives for extraction and stimulation; to drilling and fracking; to the withdrawal of and degradation of large volumes of water; and its discharge and disposal as waste.”

Carroll said in a statement that the recently proposed regulations “would potentially jeopardize the quality of the drinking water for fifteen million people, including all of New York City.” New York City gets about half its drinking water from three reservoirs located on three Delaware River tributaries.

Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Upper East Side) said that the dangers of fracking “have been well established, to the point that New York state has banned the practice outright.” She added, “So it makes no sense to allow fracking or fracking waste anywhere near the Delaware watershed, or to let this pristine public water resource be used for fracking operations elsewhere.”

During hydraulic fracturing, fluid consisting primarily of water and recycled wastewater mixed with chemicals is injected into a rock formation under pressures great enough to fracture the rock. The returned fluids contain chemicals used in the fracturing mixture, as well as salts, metals, radionuclides and hydrocarbons from the target rock formation. Each fracking attempt uses more than 4 million gallons of water. It has been linked to earthquakes and water pollution in states where it is allowed.

The 330-mile long Delaware River runs from Hancock, New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Fed by 216 tributaries, the river’s basin encompasses 13,539 square miles in four states —New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The members of DRBC include the governors of these states and the federal government.


In addition to Carroll, Krueger and Johnson, officials signing the letter to the commission include:

New York State Senators

Joseph P. Addabbo

Jamaal Bailey

Leroy Comrie

Martin Malavé Dilan

Brad Hoylman

Brian Kavanagh

Velmanette Montgomery

Kevin Parker

Roxanne Persaud

José M. Serrano


New York State Assembly Members

Michael Blake

David Buchwald

Vivian Cook

Deborah Glick

Richard Gottfried

Ellen Jaffee

Michael Miller

Walter Mosley

Yuh-Line Niou

Félix W. Ortiz

Stacey Pheffer Amato

Angelo Santabarbara

Rebecca A. Seawright

Luis R. Sepúlveda

Jo Anne Simon

Al Taylor

Jaime R. Williams


New York City Council Members

Laurie A. Cumbo

Costa Constantinides

Jimmy Van Bramer

Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.

Vanessa L. Gibson

Paul A. Vallone

Keith Powers

Carlina Rivera

Inez Barron

Jumaane D. Williams

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