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Council of Canadians tells Niagara Falls Water Board to scrap plans on treating fracking fluids in wastewater treatment system

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On September 16, WGRZ News in New York State "confirmed the Niagara Falls Water Board is moving forward with plans to treat 'fracking fluid' at its wastewater treatment plant following a feasibility study performed by an outside firm."

WGRZ added that "The board's plans, first reported in late-July, were to investigate the possibility of treating the fluid, which is a toxic byproduct of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. Through a statement, the Board confirmed its study is completed and it is moving forward with the project: Although the Niagara Falls Water Board has not advocated for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, should the State of New York allow drilling to proceed, and our wastewater treatment plant meet all requirements and regulations as set forth by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Niagara Falls Water Board potentially offers a solution to effectively and safely treat wastewater produced from drilling and would help mitigate concerns about impacts on public health and safety and the environment."

In a recent telephone conversation, Executive Director of the Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) Paul Drof confirmed that they have conducted an early feasibility study which is being finalized. The study will be posted on the website once it is completed. The NFWB has also commissioned preliminary testing to see what pre-treatment would be needed for the fracking fluids. The NFWB is waiting on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for further direction on limits to chemicals. (The NY DEC is currently requesting public comment on natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale. The deadline for the public comment period is December 12, 2011.)

WGRZ also reported that Brian Smith of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, "The Niagara Falls sewage treatment facility is ill-equipped to properly treat hazardous fracking waste. Allowing this would risk the discharge of toxic, radioactive, and caustic waste into our fragile Great Lakes ecosystem." And Rita Yelda of WNY Drilling Defense says, "If this fracking waste is not treated correctly, it could contaminate our water. It's a potential risk."

The NFWB recently held their monthly meeting. Rita Yelda of WNY Drilling Defense encouraged "the public to attend the Niagara Falls Water Board's next public meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. on September 22." Drof said that it is likely there will be a public comment period with the NFWB devoted to the issue of treating fracking fluids in the Niagara Falls wastewater treatment facility.

The Council of Canadians submitted a letter today requesting that the NFWB scrap the plans in order to protect the Great Lakes Basin for current and future generations.

Niagara Falls is situated on the Niagara River and connects to both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The letter states: "The Great Lakes, specifically, and water, in general, are part of the global commons (a shared entity) and are a public trust. Any harm to water is a harm to the whole including the Earth and humans. The Great Lakes hold nearly 20 per cent of the world's freshwater and 95 per cent of North America's freshwater. They provide drinking water to 40 million people in surrounding areas. Last year the UN passed two resolutions recognizing water as a human right (A/64/L292 and A/HRC/15/L.14) and this proposal to treat fracking fluids threatens people's human right to safe and clean drinking water."

In a letter, the Council of Canadians also pointed out that "The investigative report Fracking Hell: The Untold Story by Earth Focus and U.K.'s Ecologist Film Unit noted some chemicals found in fracking fluids in the U.S. include ethylhexanol, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, boric acid, ethylene glycol, methanol, monoethanolamine, dazomet, acetic anhydride, isopropanol, propargyl alcohol and diesel. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Division of Mineral Resources released a massive report which listed 257 additives that may be mixed in fracking fluids."

Drof noted that the NFWB was waiting on instruction from the Department of Environmental Conservation to indicate limits on toxic chemicals. Mr. Drof noted that if the limits were achievable, the NFWB would examine whether the proposal was economically viable. The Council of Canadians warn that "if discharged into waterways, the wastewater flowback puts the drinking water of communities in the region at risk. Further, while immediate effects may not always be detected, Professor of Engineering, Tony Ingraffea, from Cornell University notes that the effects of fracking are cumulative. So although communities may not see immediate impacts on their drinking water, communities will see the effects of fracking in 10 or more years."

To read the Council of Canadians letter to the Niagara Falls Water Board, click here.

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