Convoy of unmarked trucks transporting hazardous fracking waste for disposal
While there are no fracking operations currently underway in Connecticut, volumes of toxic and hazardous waste by-products could pose storage, treatment and disposal problems for our state. That's why our legislators in Hartford passed a three year moratorium in 2014 which imposes a three year minimum moratorium on the storage, disposal, and treatment of toxic fracking waste in Connecticut.
Pursuant to the new law, the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will categorize fracking waste "hazardous waste" under Connecticut's hazardous waste policy, review the potential environmental and health impacts of fracking waste, and develop protections to ensure that fracking waste and its by-products do not pose a risk to Connecticut's air, soil, food, water resources, and public health. The law also requires any party seeking to transport or store fracking waste in Connecticut after the moratorium ends to disclose all chemical constituents to DEEP, and gives the DEEP commissioner the authority to prohibit fracking waste outright if (s)he determines it necessary in order to protect the state's resources and health.
It is well documented that the fracking process poses inherent risks to groundwater resources and the health of surrounding communities. Less well known are the potential negative impacts that waste products from fracking can have in communities and states where industrial oil and gas development is not taking place Oil and gas companies often look to other states to dispose fracking waste. Volumes of toxic, radioactive, and caustic waste pose storage, treatment, and disposal problems:
Toxic Fracking Waste
Contaminated flowback fluids that return to the surface during the drilling process can contain a variety of toxic chemicals used in this process. An independent analysis revealed that of the chemicals used in gas drilling, 50% could cause brain damage, 37% could affect the endocrine system, and 25% could cause cancer or mutations. The production brine that flows out of a producing gas well can be five times saltier than seawater, can contain trace amounts of chemicals used for fracking, and bring up other naturally occurring contaminants that have been buried underground. The drill cuttings, which is the drilled rock removed from the well bore, can be contaminated by naturally occurring contaminants such as radioactivity.
Shale formations can contain high levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORMs), including Radium-226, which has a half-life of over 1,600 years. Radon occurs naturally as a decay product of Radium-226, and therefore is present in rocks and soils. Radon is the leading cause of cancer among non-smokers, and Radium-226 is linked to bone, liver and breast cancer. Flowback fluid, production brine, and drill cuttings from affected shale formations can be contaminated with high levels of radiation. Production brine from vertical wells drilled in New York's Marcellus Shale was found to exceed Safe Drinking Water Act standards by up to 320,500%.
Disposal and Treatment of Toxic Fracking Waste
There is a loophole in federal law that exempts waste from oil and gas operations from being considered hazardous waste, despite the fact that this waste can actually be hazardous! This can result in hazardous fracking waste being disposed of at traditional sewage treatment plants and industrial waste facilities that are not designed to remove hazardous waste. Inadequate treatment of hazardous waste leaves communities vulnerable to exposure to toxic substances, threatening public health and our environment.
Production brine from fracking operations can be used as de-icer on roads.
Road Application of Toxic Fracking Waste
Oil and gas companies sell production brine to states and municipalities as a "beneficial re-use product" to be used as a road de-icer or for dust control. The high salinity content of the brine adversely impacts sewage and water treatment plants and contaminate freshwater ecosystems.
updated by bsmith 10/31/14