Could über-toxic fracking wastewater end up in Kingston? Possibly.

Kingston is located just beyond the eastern edge of the underlying Marcellus Shale. This gift of geography would seem to exempt Kingstonians from the environmental woes associated with high-volume natural gas hydraulic fracturing, which may begin in the gas-rich shale formation next year with the lifting of the state’s temporary moratorium.

Yet the city potentially could be impacted. Proposed regulations developed by state Department of Conservation (DEC) for the high-volume hydraulic fracturing of the shale and other mineral reserves allow toxins-laden wastewater from the fracking wells to be treated at municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs).

The regulations have been drawn up in tandem with the agency’s Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Impact Statement (SGEIS), issued in September. Kingston is included in an appendix to the SGEIS that lists municipalities with a sewage treatment plant whose State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit allows for treatment of industrial waste hauled to the plant and therefore has the capacity for “pretreatment” of the fracking waste. That means it’s not inconceivable gas-drilling companies could be contacting the plant operators about processing their wastewater.


Actually, it’s already happened. In early 2009, Kingston was approached by a natural gas drilling company about processing its waste. City Engineer Ralph Swenson said he rejected the request, based on the plant’s capacity. Around the same time, a handful of municipalities elsewhere in the state started treating gas-drilling wastewater in their sewage plants.

Environmental experts on hydro-fracking said that municipal WWTPs simply aren’t equipped to handle this type of industrial waste. Furthermore, DEC’s oversight of the plants that have already processed gas-drilling waste was extremely lax, according to one source, which doesn’t inspire confidence that the agency will be able to rigorously regulate a practice that could destroy water quality in much of the state.

The sewage treatment plants that did accept fracking wastewater from Pennsylvania drilling operations weren’t equipped to monitor and remove radioactivity, which has been found to be a byproduct of the waste. (The radioactivity is from radium, which is a carcinogen when ingested from drinking water or by eating contaminated fish or farm produce.) Waste treated at the Cayuga Heights treatment plant, outside Ithaca, flowed into Cayuga Lake, a source of drinking water to the surrounding communities.

Radiation in Pennsylvania

Section 750-3.12 of the proposed regulations, entitled “Disposal of HVHF flowback and production water,” is six pages of detailed requirements which strike the layperson, at least, as impressively thorough. The DEC outlines the “fluid disposal plan” treatment operators would have to have approved first before they could accept the waste. Applicants would be required to demonstrate they have the necessary treatment capacity. They would have to do a “headworks analysis,” which would require them to analyze the compounds in the wastewater. The plant would also be subject to ongoing monitoring by the DEC.

There are 12 comments

  1. Bobalo Smith

    I think this is BS – a story meant to scare people with poor facts. Try some actual journalism for a change…

    1. James Stewart

      Based on what? If you genuinely care to find the truth, take a ride down to Bradford county, PA. I did, and I saw for myself firsthand the aftermath of hydrofracking. People are being poisoned, robbed (of land equity), and gagged (gag orders in exchange for water from the perpetrators of the aquifer contamination). Thousands of people’s lives have been utterly destroyed by hydrofracking. It’s not too late yet for you to see this, and do something to protect yourself from the same fate.

  2. Ed Leighton

    This is not news. Any industrial waste water can be considered uber-toxic. Uber being borderline hysterical. So much for un-biased reporting.

    1. Laurel Lindewall

      Why does one have to be un-biased about facts? Why are you so biased against simple caution and common sense?

  3. Dave Channon

    Congratulations to the Kingston times for this informative article. Do you want to end up like the impoverished landowners in Appalachia? This is as destructive as mountain top removal coal mining. Don’t believe the hype the gas companies are spreading. We have a lot to defend.

  4. Joanne Gillies

    speaking and acting graphically to wake up a population that has been Resting In Peace(r.i.p.) for so long seems to be unavoidable. Thank you for this information. I think more of this sort of reasoning is highly necessary.

  5. Lynn Woods

    Bobalo Smith and Ed Leighton,
    Please explain why you think my article is “BS” and biased. What is the basis for your insinuation that disposal of fracking wastewater is safe, and that it’s “borderline hysterical” to assume otherwise? I, and the Kingston Times, strive for accuracy so we would very much like to know why you think this article is inaccurate.

  6. eslynn

    Good journalism.
    And when, for goodness sake, are we going to stop these insane methods of getting energy from the earth?! When, oh, when, will we use solar for our needs?
    When Mario Cuomo was NYS governor, and the Shoreham nuclear plant was about to go online, protests erupted and he actually heeded the warnings of the dangers to NY residents and land: It didn’t open. So, Andrew? Do what your dad did and pay attention to the people. Stop hydrofracking; stop nuclear plants; do something honorable and make it a law that buildings be “solarized”; do it for the next generations, would ya?

  7. Laurel Lindewall

    People in favor of this terribly toxic method of getting energy from the earth support it for the love of money, and the lack of imagination and vision, lack of respect for nature. They insult and degrade those of us with higher values for being truth-tellers, and questioners of authority. Horizontal fracturing is a monstrous proposal. Any morally and intellectually average fifth grader would agree. The waste of our water resources alone is reason enough to reject it. Millions of gallons of clean water per well. Sick! All the other problems, such as what to do with the toxic waste just make it more and more abominable. People who don’t acknowledge this are just ridiculous, and amoral, or perhaps immoral, at least on environmental stewardship issues. Who told them they can do whatever they want in life, regardless of the costs? They must learn to respect others and not just steamroll their way through life. We must stop them from destroying what most of us consider to be sacred and irreplaceable.

  8. Erick Ihlenburg

    It seems Mr. Smith and Mr. Leighton would rather get their information from industry propaganda. Or maybe they are actually serving as paid industry propagandists. As with any battle over public opinion, I imagine the gas companies have a few people who are tasked with spreading misinformation and criticizing objective reporting on the most serious fracking issues. As a reasonable environmentalist, I used to accept natural gas as the so-called bridge to an alternative energy future. I used to think, well, at least it’s cleaner than coal and less risky than nuclear. I almost invested in natural gas equities, hoping to make a killing from the inevitable boom. But no longer. As I wade through the troubling facts and become educated about the impacts, it is more and more obvious that this industrial process is not worth it. I hope Gov. Cuomo comes to this realization soon–we need to speak up and help him realize that it’s just not worth it. Those who favor hydrofracking and who aggressively criticize its opponents are either uneducated about the facts, or paid off in one way or another, it’s that simple. Those who believe that an economic boom is inevitable as soon as the first new well is permitted are sadly naive. Get with it folks. Stick to the facts. Reject the propaganda. Before it’s too late.

  9. Joan Walker Wasylyk

    THANK YOU, Kingston Times and Lynn Woods. The article represents impeccable journalism, and if anything it was understated in terms of the damage toxic, radioactive, produced frack fluid would do to the
    Kingston Waste Water Treatment system.
    1) The toxic chemicals are labeled “Hazardous Waste” when they are put into the wells. When they return to the surface they magically turn into “industrial” waste. The magic of the industry’s lobby efforts, that is.
    2)Waste treatment plants use live creatures–bacteria–to process sewage. This fluid is full of biocides and other poisons which will destroy the bacteria.
    3)World renown sewage expert, Al Appleton, says the fluid will go in and then back out into the Rondout without mitigation.
    4)The fluid is super salty, beyond anything sewage plants can handle
    5)The trucks, which would ruin our lovely Rondout neighborhood, would not be marked with specific contents because the compounds are proprietory, exempt from Clean Water laws and vary greatly from drill pad to drill pad.
    6)Kingston might be tempted (for the hefty fees involved) but would be nuts to accept this stuff.
    thanks again, Kingston Times.

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