Environmental Advocates, an environmental lobbying group, has challenged the state Department of Environmental Conservation in a report Friday claiming that the state fails to keep track of waste generated by low-volume natural gas hydrofracking. After examining DEC paperwork for 100 existing gas wells located in Western New York and the Finger Lakes region, researchers for Environmental Advocates of New York claimed the agency's records made it "nearly impossible" to track drilling waste from individual wells to disposal.
The report from the not-for-profit group was based on DEC records obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act. It claimed that "DEC does not know how much drilling waste is being produced or where it is going. Only the gas companies know, and they're not talking."
Low-volume vertical hydrofracking is legal in the state, unlike high-volume horizontal hydrofracking, which uses the same blend of chemicals, water and sand, but in much larger quantities over a much larger underground area.
Opponents fear the horizontal technique could pollute air and groundwater, but the industry argues it is safe. DEC has been studying the issue for more than three years amid an ever-louder debate. A state decision remains pending.
A vertical well could produce up to 200 gallons of wastewater a day, much less than the millions of gallons produced by a horizontal well. There are about 6,600 gas wells operating in the state, with about 90 percent using the low-volume technique, the report said.
State law exempts hydrofracking waste from being monitored under hazardous waste law, which would provide a clearer paper trail of what was in the waste, how much came from a well, and where it was disposed.
In 2010, according to DEC, there were about 23.6 million gallons of hydrofracking waste produced in the state, including salty brine water brought up from underground. More than 10 million gallons were sent to municipal sewer treatment plants, and another 6.8 million gallons were spread on local roads to hold down dust or provide traction during winter months. Another 6 million gallons were sent to other states for treatment or disposal. (Times Union, 5/4/2012)