Watershed Wednesdays! Week 1

Welcome to Watershed Wednesdays! December 15, 2021

Today, December 15, is the first week in our 10-week comments campaign.

Each week the Delaware River Frack Ban Coalition Organizing Committee will focus on a different aspect of the DRBC draft regulations pertaining to the import of wastewater produced by fracking and the export of water from the Delaware River Watershed for fracking outside of the Basin. The public comment period is open now and will close February 28, 2022.

To comment: Go to the DRBC online portal, fill in the form and cut and paste some or all of these suggested points into the template, adding a line about your personal interest in a full ban. Alternatively, you can write your own comment and insert it or attach a document. Personalizing your comment is always the most powerful. Make certain that you review your submittal when prompted and click the final button that delivers your comment. You should receive a delivery receipt from DRBC.

Go here to submit a comment: https://dockets.drbc.commentinput.com/?id=x2K8A

Today’s Watershed Wednesday comment theme is a summary of what the draft rules mean for the Delaware River Watershed in terms of wastewater produced by fracking. It explains why the draft rules are an abdication of DRBC’s responsibility, opening the door for the fracking industry’s invasion of the watershed. Please check out the references provided with each point. References back up the comment points and are offered so you can delve deeper into the issues raised if you want to submit a more expansive comment this week.

On October 28, DRBC published these draft regulations. The DISCHARGE of wastewater produced by fracking is proposed to be banned, which is a crucial protection we need, but the regulations do not prohibit the IMPORT of wastewater produced by fracking, which will greenlight fracking-related projects that don’t strictly “discharge to water or land”. That’s a huge loophole that would allow fracking wastewater to enter the watershed and cause pollution through other means of release. Following are suggested points that you can copy and submit to DRBC.

Suggested comment:

  • I am very concerned because the DRBC proposal to only ban the DISCHARGE of fracking wastewater to water or land and not ban categorically the IMPORT of wastewater produced by fracking, will allow projects that don’t require a water or land discharge to proliferate, bringing fracking waste air pollution and other pathways of pollution to the watershed. DRBC does not include air permits in its permitting reviews, imposing a blind spot in its reviews and oversight. Polluting air emissions fall back to earth, depositing on surface water, vegetation, and soils, contaminating the watershed and its water, even if they aren’t directly “discharged”. This pollution is just as real and threatening to our watershed health as direct discharges. Please ban the IMPORT of fracking wastewater to prevent this pollution. *See Reference 1
  • I oppose these draft regulations because fracking waste processing plants, storage and transfer stations, and uses/reuses of fracking wastewater won’t be stopped by the draft rules, they will actually be invited in. DRBC provides ample justification for why it is proposing to prohibit the discharge of fracking wastewater due to the danger of this toxic and radioactive wastewater. Illogically, it sidesteps the other ways that fracking wastewater will inevitably pollute our watershed and water resources. These loopholed projects have the power to destroy the qualities DRBC seeks to protect through its discharge ban and its ban on fracking within the watershed. The regulation of these projects, without DRBC, falls to the state agencies where the project is located. Pennsylvania’s air pollution control regulations do not effectively address air emissions from fracking operations. Additionally, oil and gas operations are exempted from the Federal Clean Air Act requirement that air pollution sources that may seem small but collectively can release dangerous levels of hazardous air pollutants must aggregate their emissions so they can be controlled cumulatively. This allows hazardous pollution to fall between bureaucratic cracks, endangering entire regions. I ask DRBC to categorically ban the import of fracking wastewater because the deposition of air pollution on to watershed’s water resources and ecosystems will deliver fracking pollution, harming our communities and environment. We need your protection. *See Reference 2
  • Storage of fracking wastewater is not prohibited in the proposed DRBC regulations. Storage, transfers/transloading and the requisite transportation around the watershed of these toxic and radioactive fluids, will result in leaks, spills, an accidents. PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP) uses a lax General Permit [Residual Waste General Permit WMGR123] to govern the storage and transport for many fracking wastewater projects. The proof of the ineffective control of the toxic pollution from frack wastewater can be found in the many studies and reports examining the effects of fracking-related spills and leaks on water resources, the longevity of the contaminants in sediments, soil, and streams and the adverse health effects in humans, fish and aquatic life. Fracking pollution from a project in Pennsylvania’s portion of the watershed will impact us all. DRBC is supposed to prevent this kind of weak, fragmented environmental regulation through its watershed-based oversight. The proposed rules undercut its effort to protect the whole. The only way to avoid these pollution releases from transport and storage is to ban the import of fracking wastewater completely. I request that you include a full import ban in your current rulemaking. *See Reference 3


Reference 1: Talking Point #1 and “Air pollution: effects on soil and water” at: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-pollution/quality-environment-economy/ecosystem/effects-soil-water.html

References 2: “Companies are not mandated by federal regulations to disclose the identities or quantities of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing operations on private or public lands. These chemicals can volatilize into the air from tanks and wastewater impoundments and contribute to air pollution.” (“Fracking Fumes: Air Pollution from Hydraulic Fracturing Threatens Public Health and Communities”, Natural Resources Defense Council, 2014. https://www.nrdc.org/resources/fracking-fumes-air-pollution-fracking-threatens-public-health-and-communities).

“Fracking sites release a toxic stew of air pollution that includes chemicals that can cause severe headaches, asthma symptoms, childhood leukemia, cardiac problems, and birth defects. In addition, many of the 1,000-plus chemicals used in fracking are harmful to human health—some are known to cause cancer.” (“Reduce Fracking Health Hazards”, Natural Resources Defense Council, 2021. https://www.nrdc.org/issues/reduce-fracking-health-hazards)

“These common sense regulations will close the loophole that allows fracking to side-step the Environmental Protection Agency,” (”Congressman Neguse Joins [Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effects] Breathe Act, Legislation to Crack Down On Fracking”, Press Release, 2019. https://bit.ly/3DRkO3L).

References 3: “In the water samples from spill sites, the team found that high concentrations of salts, trace metals, and other toxic contaminants persisted from the spills. Selenium, thallium, and radium exceeded maximum contaminant levels for drinking water in some samples. Additionally, ammonium and selenium concentrations were above recommended levels for aquatic life. In soil and sediment samples downstream from the Blacktail Creek spill site, radium concentrations were up to 100 times as great as in samples upstream.” (“Toxic chemicals from fracking wastewater spills can persist for years”, Chemical & Engineering News, ISSN 0009-2347, Copyright © 2021 American Chemical Society, 2021. (https://cen.acs.org/articles/94/web/2016/05/Toxic-chemicals-fracking-wastewater-spills.html)

“A research team at the University of Missouri traced a spike in endocrine-disrupting activity in a West Virginia stream to an upstream facility that stores fracking wastewater. Levels detected downstream of the waste facility were above levels known to create adverse health effects and alter the development of fish, amphibians, and other aquatic organisms. Endocrine-disrupting compounds were not elevated in upstream sections of the creek.” DRBC Testimony Sandra Steingraber, Co-founder, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Senior Scientist, Science and Environmental Health Network, 12.8.21. Referring to: Kassotis, C. D., Iwanowicz, L. R., Akob, D. M., Cozzarelli, I. M., Mumford, A. C., Orem, W. H., & Nagel, S. C. (2016). Endocrine disrupting activities of surface water associated with West Virginia oil and gas industry wastewater disposal site. Science of the Total Environment, 557-558. doi: 10.1016/j.sci.tenv.2016.03.113. https://hero.epa.gov/hero/index.cfm/reference/details/reference_id/3317634