Politicians: ‘Don’t Frack With Our Water’

TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, June 12

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

“We don’t want to frack up New York!”

That was the message Adrienne Esposito hammered home as Suffolk lawmakers and environmental specialists gathered in Centerport on Tuesday for the signing of a county bill prohibiting the sale and use of toxic, hydraulic fracturing byproducts.

In Centerport on Tuesday, from left, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, and Patti Wood, executive director at Grassroots Environment, celebrate the signing of Suffolk’s new bill to prohibit the sale and use of toxic hydraulic fracturing byproducts to protect the region’s groundwater.
In Centerport on Tuesday, from left, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer, and Patti Wood, executive director at Grassroots Environment, celebrate the signing of Suffolk’s new bill to prohibit the sale and use of toxic hydraulic fracturing byproducts to protect the region’s groundwater.

According to Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, one of many groups leading the charge in New York against hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” uses millions of gallons of water mixed with a cocktail of chemicals, creating toxic, hazardous and radioactive waste that pose disposal problems and public health concerns.

The bill, which was signed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone at a press conference at Heron Park, makes illegal the sale and use of the harmful byproducts of fracking, a form of mining that involves shooting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and other chemicals into cracks beneath the surface of the earth to reach natural gas, petroleum and brine.

Currently, there is not any legal fracking activity occurring on Long Island, according to Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), but that hasn’t stopped issues surrounding the process from popping up, especially when Long Island’s groundwater is concerned.

“[Hydro-frackers] find a very high brine content, or salt content, so it’s very useful as a de-icing material,” said Patti Wood, executive director at Grassroots Environment, a New York-based nonprofit pushing for environmental changes. “They actually are selling it to counties upstate New York… and once it’s on a road, as soon as it rains, it becomes part of our groundwater.”

Spencer stressed the importance of the Nassau/Suffolk Aquifer System – an underground system from which groundwater can be removed using a water well – and how harmful radioactive, hydro-fracking byproducts can potentially be to it. When natural gas waste is processed through sewage treatment plants and/or applied to roads, the runoff can find its way into the aquifer, jeopardizing Long Island’s drinking water.

“If we get radioactive waste in our aquifer, it’s something that could really change our lives as we know it,” Spencer said. “[With the bill,] we’re just saying: ‘Not here in Suffolk County.’ We’re not equipped, being a sole-source aquifer, to have these types of [problems].”

Sponsored by Spencer – and cosponsored by other Suffolk County legislators – the bill imposes three main prohibitions: natural gas waste will not be allowed to enter any wastewater treatment facility within, or operated by, Suffolk; natural gas waste cannot be sold in Suffolk; and natural gas waste will not be permitted to be applied to Suffolk roads or property – a once-common practice.

“Hydro-fracking is a real hot topic issue, [but] this [bill] has nothing to do with whether you support or not support hydro-fracking,” Spencer said. “The issue here… is what do we do with the waste?”

The bill will go into effect 60 days after its filing in the Office of the Secretary of State. Penalties for violating the bill’s prohibitions can include an unclassified misdemeanor, punishable by a fine no more than $5,000 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Originally published: Long Islander News: Record (Thursday, June 12, 2014; Front Page)

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