POLITICS: Dems push on fracking waste



As New York’s fracking debate churns along, the issue of what to do with the waste water persists. That debate is now playing out in Monroe County government, which operates the Van Lare waste water treatment plant and a much smaller one in Hilton.

Monroe County is not a current target of gas drilling companies; most of their focus is on the Southern Tier. But the companies could approach county officials about disposing of fracking waste water at the county’s treatment facilities.

Democratic County legislators have been pushing the administration to disclose its policies and internal discussions pertaining to fracking waste water treatment. Administration officials say they won’t make a broad policy to reject requests to treat fracking waste. Instead, they say, requests would be addressed case by case.

“We would handle it like any other waste water,” says county spokesperson Justin Feasel.

Democrats have also questioned whether the county’s facilities are equipped to properly treat the waste water. The answer is complicated and depends in part on the waste’s composition, says Justin Roj, deputy commissioner of the county’s Department of Environmental Services. The mixture of chemicals, salts, and radioactive elements differs, depending on the source.

The state regulates and issues permits for waste water treatment facilities, and the permits ultimately limit the wastes a plant can treat. The state’s draft environmental statement on high-volume hydraulic fracturing addresses those permits. It lays out how municipal plants could apply for permit changes that would allow them to accept and treat fracking waste water.

Under that process, the plant operator would have to analyze the composition of the waste water it wants to treat and whether the facility could handle it. The DEC and the federal Environmental Protection Agency would also conduct reviews.

Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, says that right now, no New York waste water treatment plants are permitted to accept and treat fracking waste water. In the draft environmental statement, the DEC acknowledges that municipal plants may not be equipped to adequately remove the salts and the dissolved solids present in the waste.

Ultimately, the discussion in Monroe County hits on the broader issue of whether New York officials ought to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing at all. If the in-state treatment plants can’t handle the waste, is New York truly prepared for a sudden surge in fracking?


  1. Mary Mahoney · · Reply

    Here we are in a moderate drought. Two-thirds of the country is in a severe drought. Our water is an appreciating resource. The shale, not. Shall we allow greedy fools to destroy the resource we must have in order to survive so that they can line their pockets?

  2. Bonnie Cannan · · Reply

    it is outrageous to even consider using county treatment plants to treat hydrofracking waste. This waste includes among other toxins, radioative elements. The local moratorium approved by the Rochester city council included in the moratorium refusal to use facilities that would claim to “treat” the hydrofracking dangerous waste waters. We suggest that Maggie do her on-going testing by drinking directly the waste water from fracking as a steady diet. Officials cannot enjoy the privledge they (she) is accustomed to while others would be subjected to risk.

  3. One thing’s for sure: If you oppose fracking, you forfeit any right to be taken seriously when you whine about climate change.

  4. Tom Janowski · · Reply

    People have to start THINKING. Romney and President Obama both support hydrofracking. Cuomo does appear to be close to sacrificing 5 Southern Tier counties, including my home county of Chemung. It’s sad that Democrats, who usually appear to the the environmentally concerned party, can’t resist the money involved in the gas industry and fracking. Environmentalists cannot count on the Democrats on this issue.

    It seems only the Green Party has an uncompromising anti-fracking policy. Jill Stein is the Green Party’s candidate for President…a vote for Jill is the pure environmental protection vote. Locally, Drew Langdon is a Green Party candidate running for State Assembly. A vote for Drew is good for the environment.

    Go your own way…

  5. Steven Nichols · · Reply

    Dear Maggie Brooks:

    NY and Monroe County have enough problems that need fixing…why invite disaster?

    It seems that like Gov. Cuomo’s possible sacrifice of 5 NY counties to fracking, Monroe County might sacrifice itself. Put up a sign that reads, “Dump your waste on us!”

    Why invite another environmental disaster when NY already has a rich history of it? oRemember Love Canal? Look at Onondaga Lake, once called America’s most polluted lake, which is entering into a final $1 Billiion dollar clean up phase. What we don’t pollute today, we won’t have to spend billions to clean up in 20 years when it becomes all to evident that accepting fracking waste was a big mistake.

    Fracking’s residual waste is no different than nuclear waste in that no one really knows what can safely be done with it. Until there is something safe and definitive, why would the county dive head first into this retention pond of toxic sludge?

    Anything to help, support or promote the efforts to frack–whether it is giving up our precious water, selling out our land to drilling or accepting frack waste–is just wrong. Isn’t global warming all too obviously real now? Hydrofracked gas is not the clean bridge fuel to the future its made out to be. It is a fracking mess of a bridge back to the past of burning fossil fuel that caused global warming.

    The county should make this deal with the fracking indiustry: They keep their toxic waste out of Monroe County and we’ll keep our precious water resources right here. That sounds safe and sensible.

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