Watershed Wednesdays – Week 5

Welcome to Watershed Wednesday #5

January 12, 2021

This week’s comment theme is the classification of fracking waste

Today, January 12, begins the fifth 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. (Email for coalition: DRFrackBan@gmail.com). 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 and best to put your sentences that are in your own words FIRST. 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. And you can submit more than one – submit as many comments as you want.

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

The Watershed Wednesday from the prior week is added every week to a public google doc. In case you want to comment using a past topic or get references we have provided, you can get access here: The materials can be copied and are there for your use. Remember you can make as many comments as you want!

Today’s Watershed Wednesday comment theme is the classification of fracking waste.  The hazardous waste properties of wastewater produced by fracking are not recognized by the government, which allows fracking waste to be handled, transported, and disposed through less restrictive processing systems than would be required for contaminants classified as hazardous waste.

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.

Suggested comment:

  •  I am very concerned that, as ‘special’ wastes, drilling fluids, produced water, and hydraulic fracturing fluids are unregulated toxic substances. They were re-named ‘special’ by the Bentsen amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (or RCRA) in 1980 so that these wastes would not be regulated as the toxic materials that they are. RCRA takes a “cradle to grave” approach to ensure wastes are handled properly from the point of creation to transport to disposal. The Bentsen Amendment removed that regulatory oversight over oil and gas wastes. Additionally, that change isolated the gas and oil companies from the liability they would have if this waste were regulated as toxic under RCRA.[i]
  • I’m very concerned because labeling a waste as ‘special’ does not mean that it is not toxic – oil and gas waste is toxic and very harmful. The liquid wastes contain carcinogens, endocrine disrupting chemicals, heavy metals, poisonous hydrocarbons, radioactivity and extremely high salt content. Included in the mix are the toxic BETX materials, benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylenes. It was recently revealed that highly toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used in the fluids used in fracking in Pennsylvania and beyond.[ii] In its national study of fracking and drinking water, EPA identified 1,606 chemicals in fracking fluid or drilling wastewater including 1,084 identified in fracking fluid and 599 identified in wastewater, yet only 173 had toxicity values from sources that met EPA’s standards for conducting risk assessments.[iii] I am very worried that these contaminants, many of them not even identified or tested for safety, are in the frack wastewater that could be imported to the watershed. 
  • I oppose the draft regulations because they correctly prohibit the discharge of waste in the Basin, but allow waste to be brought in for treatment. The treatment process releases this pollution through various pathways. While it is essential that discharges of this effluent to water and land be prohibited, emissions to air can be toxic and damaging to human health and the environment as they are released into the surroundings as poisonous, smog producing air pollution.[iv]

[i] Environmental Protection Agency, Special Wastes, EPA Website, https://www.epa.gov/hw/special-wastes

[ii] Dusty Horwitt, “Fracking with Forever Chemicals” published by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, at . And Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial with investigative info:

[iii] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas: impacts from the hydraulic fracturing water cycle on drinking water resources in the United States. Washington, DC: Office of Research and Development; 2016, at ES-45 to ES-46 and 9-1. EPA Report # 600/R-16/236F.  See https://www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

[iv] Ibid.

Check out Watershed Wednesdays, Week 1 , Week 2 , Week 3, and Week 4 and submit comments on those topics too! Comment early and often!!