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Source: The Northport Observer

New County Law Bans Hydro-Fractured Fuel


Posted: June 18, 2014
Originally Published: June 12, 2014

County Executive Steven Bellone signed into law legislation to prohibit the sale and use of hydraulic fracturing by-products in Suffolk County, at a press conference at Heron Park in Centerport Tuesday, June 10.

The bill is sponsored by legislators Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) and Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Dr. Spencer made clear that the bill was not meant to show support for nor condemn the practice of hydrofracking, but simply to make sure that dangerous by-products of the process were not sold and used in Suffolk County, because of potential harm they could have to our water supply.

Hydrofracking waste contains toxic chemicals such as radium-226, radium-228, and uranium among others. It is often sold by energy companies to municipalities because its high salt content makes the mixture very adept at clearing snow and ice from roads during wintertime. However, environmentalists and Suffolk County officials say they are not willing to risk the safety of Long Island’s drinking and groundwater for some extra road salt.

Long Island gets all of its drinking water from a sole source aquifer, meaning that if any amount of the hydrofracking by-product found its way into the aquifer, all of the drinking water could become contaminated. If the byproducts were used to help clear ice from roads, one rainstorm could divert the chemicals into the aquifer.

“This bill is critical in protecting the health of our residents and our future generations,” Dr. Spencer said. “The liquid product from fracking can contain high levels of additives which contain metals, radioactive materials, and it’s a toxic stew that is not welcome in Suffolk County.”

The bill to ban hydrofracking byproducts comes on the heels of Executive Bellone’s announcement of his ‘Save Our Water’ campaign earlier this year.

“We have declared that protecting our water quality is the top priority of this administration,” Mr. Bellone said. “Suffolk County has always been at the forefront of protecting our environment and that’s what this bill does.”

“This is about protecting public health and our environment,” he continued. “We’re not willing to gamble on these products and their potential effect on our health.”

Alongside the three county officials were environmental leaders Patty Wood, Adrienne Esposito, and Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman Jim Gaughran. Ms. Wood is the Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education, an organization dedicated to educating the general public on environmental issues. She has made frequent calls and visits to Dr. Spencer’s office in effort to make sure that he understood the dangers of allowing these bi-products to be used on the roads and in sewage treatment plants.

“The failures of the natural gas industry are many, including the production of tremendous volumes of waste during their operations, and doing the unthinkable: targeting vital natural resources as dumping grounds,” Ms. Wood said. “Long Islanders should not bear the burden for disposal of these hazardous materials.”

Ms. Wood wanted to make sure those in attendance at the bill signing knew how truly significant the event was.

“Many Long Islanders may not be aware of the importance of this day, but it has true historic significance,” Ms. Wood said.

“The bottom line is that in Suffolk County our sewage treatment facilities and our landfills are not designed for this type of toxic waste,” Ms. Esposito said. “Hydrofracking means a cocktail of chemicals, it means radioactivity, including radium, uranium, heavy metal and other volatile organic chemicals. This bill prevents a problem before it occurs.”

Ms. Esposito also addressed one of the major elephants in the room. Anti-fracking groups such as Ms. Esposito’s have faced resistance in the past from energy companies, who say that hydrofracking is the most effective and cost efficient way to remove natural gas from the earth; thus making the process vital to solving the country’s energy crises.

“Saying that we need hydrofracking to solve an energy crises is like saying we need a hurricane to solve a rain shortage—the devastation that it leaves in its wake just isn’t worth it,” Ms. Esposito said.