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Fracking flowback should be classified hazardous

By Joann Morsch
March 29, 2011

The Board of Wayne/Susquehanna R.E.S.C.U.E. believes that the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) mandate is to protect the integrity of the water supplies in the Delaware River Basin.

Our contention is that in carrying out this mandate, the DRBC should adhere to the precautionary principle, which states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. The evidence that we have reviewed strongly suggests that the gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania has not only failed to meet this burden of proof but has, in fact, demonstrated that water contamination issues related to gas drilling are a very real and significant concern.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documentation has revealed that the wastewater produced by hydro-fracturing contains radioactivity and other toxic materials at levels that are higher than can be safely handled at wastewater treatment plants. A recent review of these EPA documents states that the available evidence “unequivocally and definitively establishes that the danger to our health and our environment from hydraulic fracturing is much greater than previously understood, that government regulations have not kept pace with the natural gas industry’s expansion and that government on every level lacks the manpower to adequately police the industry.”

As such, our contention is that hydrofracturing wastewater should be legally considered and treated as “hazardous waste” throughout all four states of the Delaware River Basin, and that proper disposal methods and locations should be in place for this waste prior to allowing permits for the hydro-fracturing of shale gas wells in the watershed.

As residents of Wayne and Susquehanna counties, we’ve needed to look no further than Dimock, PA for confirmation that the practical application of the current regulatory framework has failed to be an adequate safeguard against water contamination due to hydro-fracturing.

The DRBC’s own hydro-geologist states that about 1 million gallons of wastewater is generated per well. The latest predictions are for 15,000 to 18,000 wells in our area, which would mean 15 billion to 18 billion gallons of frack water without proper treatment facilities in place.

In light of these concerns, our question is: How can the commission responsibly allow gas drilling and hydro-fracturing to go forward in the river basin without first making certain that we have the water treatment capacity necessary within the four contiguous states of the river basin to handle the wastewater?

Cleaning the wastewater for ugh and factual

I'm beginning to agree, folks should stop referring to the entire process of shale gas extraction with the short hand "hydrofracking", or "hydro-fracturing", because if one uses that word, it usually results in the type of posts written by Ugh and Factual.

In deference to Ugh and Factual, may I present the proper revision:

"As residents of Wayne and Susquehanna counties, we’ve needed to look no further than Dimock, PA for confirmation that the practical application of the current regulatory framework has failed to be an adequate safeguard against water contamination due to "high volume, slickwater, multistage, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal or vertical drilling into shale and other tight rock formations".

That Ugh is still dragging out the irrelevant BS about Dimock having a history of well water being set on fire, therefore, we should not take that nine square mile contamination caused by Cabot Oil and Gas seriously, is a whole other kettle of fish. The gas was thermogenic, production layer gas, not biogenic, or so PADEP said (what do they know?). These people, let's name the Carter family as the example, lived on ...Carter Road (what a coincidence) for thirty? forty? years without such a problem, let alone chemicals in the water. Cabot comes in, drills a couple of wells and, voila, water contamination, that has still not been remediated in over three years and five months time. PADEP tried to ram an unwelcome, inadequate "solution" to their potentially permanent water contamination, one that PADEP worked out with Cabot, without any input from the victims of the contamination, and it was rejected by those affected parties.

Hey, as Ugh points out, Route 17 has car accidents, should we close Route 17, or ban cars? No, but we can ban diesel, gasoline, speeding on main street, and we can give out $145 tickets for not wearing a seat belt, so why can't we regulate the oil and gas companies properly? When we purchase a car, we pay sales tax, so why can't we impose an extraction tax?

Oh, wait, I should stop writing about these issues because my wife and I own a car, and we heat our house with oil, and we have electric. My apologies. Oh yes, and we didn't lease because we only have 25 acres, and we have lessor envy. OK, I understand.

Right On

That last paragraph is the only intelligent thing you have written, Yimmy!

When a speeder gets a ticket

you feel the law is working. When a driller is cited for spilling five gallons of diesel, you feel the law is failing. It is your logic, math, and understanding that are failing badly, Mr. Barth.

Yes, you do knowingly buy products derived from hydraulic fracturing. That means you support it financially. That means your arguments are hollow, at best.

So much for being factual.

Didn't we read on comments on comments that this paper wanted comments to be factually correct. Then the same paper prints this totally inaccurate account of the situation in Dimock. Go figure.


Dimock's water problems were not created by hydro-fracturing. That is a fact. They may have been caused by poor casing construction. People in that area have long been able to light their tap water on fire prior to drilling. It is disingenuous at best to point to Dimock as a poster child against hydro-fracking, but that is what anti drilling groups do. Why can't we at least agree to argue on the facts and not the fears?