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NEWS: Council of Canadians, Food & Water Watch fight fracking wastewater proposal

The Associated Press/ Wall Street Journal reports, “The city that put Love Canal and Superfund in the environmental lexicon may get back into the business of dealing with toxic waste – this time willingly. It is considering whether to truck in and treat wastewater left over from natural gas drilling.”

“The economically struggling city in western New York could use the revenue, and the Niagara Falls Water Board says its specialized wastewater treatment plant can handle more business since the decline of the chemical industry it was designed for. With New York considering allowing natural gas production in its part of the lucrative Marcellus Shale, the water board is examining whether it would make economic sense to become a destination for the byproduct wastewater of the drilling process… Once treated, the fracking wastewater would either be discharged into the Niagara River upstream of Niagara Falls or be reused in drilling… The Niagara River flows between lakes Erie and Ontario, forming a border between western New York and Ontario, Canada.”

“A coalition of local opponents submitted 25 questions to the water board, and about 15 members attended a board meeting Thursday night hoping for answers about the potential environmental impacts to the river and adjoining lakes, costs, safety, possible impacts on human health and the handling of radiation brought to the surface from deep shale wells. ‘We should be learning from past mistakes instead of risking our water so we can accept New York state’s hydrofracking waste,’ said Rita Yelda, an organizer for Food & Water Watch, an environmental advocacy group. ‘Niagara Falls is known for its tourism, its beautiful scenery,’ Yelda said. ‘A large part of their revenue is tourism, people coming in to see Niagara Falls. How will that be impacted by the increased truck traffic and what they’re releasing into Niagara Falls?'”

The Council on Canadians, a social justice advocacy group, also is among those pushing Niagara Falls to scrap the idea. ‘Last year the (United Nations) passed two resolutions recognizing water as a human right, and this proposal to treat fracking fluids threatens people’s human right to safe and clean drinking water,’ the Ottawa-based group said in a Sept. 22 letter to the water board.”

“The (Niagara Falls water) board took no action Thursday.”

“The Environmental Protection Agency (also) announced Thursday that it will draft standards for wastewater that drillers would have to meet before sending it to treatment plants. …Liquid that comes out of the drilling wells is highly salty and contaminated with substances such as barium, strontium and radium and other things that can be damaging to the environment. Millions of barrels of wastewater must be treated, and municipal sewage treatment plants can’t remove contaminants as efficiently as some of the treatment facilities that specialize in oil and gas industry waste.”

“New York environmental regulators last month formally issued proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale and scheduled four public hearings. The state hasn’t allowed fracking since it began drafting new permitting rules three years ago.”

The Council of Canadians has in its calendar a New York state public hearing in Dansville on fracking on November 16 and the next meeting of the Niagara Falls Water Board on November 17.