Lui says Niagara Falls fracking plan threatens the Great Lakes

News from the Council of Canadians

CTV reports, “Clean water advocates worry that pollutants could stream into the Great Lakes if a proposal to treat chemical wastewater at a New York state sewage plant is approved. The Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) is reviewing a plan to treat ‘fracking’ water — fluid waste from a gas extraction procedure — at a facility sitting on the Niagara River, which joins up with Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.”

“Environmentalists fear a spill or the possibility of the treated fluid being released back into a main water supply could threaten drinking water in the area and nearby cities such as Buffalo and Toronto. ‘If discharged into waterways, the wastewater flowback puts the drinking water of communities in the region at risk,’ Council of Canadians member Emma Lui wrote in an open letter to the NFWB. The Great Lakes hold 95 per cent of North America’s freshwater and provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding communities, according to the social justice group.”

“NFWB spokesperson Earl Wells wouldn’t confirm details on the agency’s potential contingency plans for the discharging the wastewater, saying the proposal review is still in the early stages. ‘One could make the leap that if you’re going to treat it you’re going to discharge it,’ he told CTVNews.ca. ‘But we’re not even at the discussion point about discharging. The alternative could be just recycling the water.’ Recycling the wastewater, said Wells, would mean companies truck the fluid to the treatment plant and then take it back to reuse in the gas extraction process. Wells added that the entire project will need to be rubber-stamped by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). ‘All we have said is we’re looking at the potential possibility of treating wastewater from the drilling process,’ he said in a phone interview from Niagara Falls, NY.”

“Wells said he wouldn’t address environmental concerns, but pointed out that treating fracking fluid in Niagara Falls, N.Y. could be an economic boon to the area. ‘It’s a poor city. It continues to see residents leave and revenue leave,” he said. ‘The cost of maintaining the water and the wastewater continue to put a burden on the ratepayers. It could generate jobs, mitigate rates.’ …Wells said the NFWB’s treatment plant is underutilized and one of only two facilities in New York State equipped to treat the type of contaminants found in fracking fluid.”

The Council of Canadians is considering next steps now including an intervention at the upcoming Niagara Falls Water Board meeting on October 20, at the NFWB’s following meeting on November 17, and at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation state hearing in Danville (on regulations that would enable the NFWB to move one step closer on its plans) on November 16.

Our letter to the Niagara Falls Water Board can be read at http://canadians.org/water/documents/fracking/letter-Niagara-Falls-Water-Board-0911.pdf.

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