Brine Spreading and Disposal on Roads–NY Bans and Legislation
At least 10 New York counties have passed bans on the improper re-use and/or disposal of fracking waste. Ulster, Oneida, Tompkins, and Orange Counties have prohibited road spreading of fracking waste, and Nassau County has prohibited the acceptance of such waste at wastewater treatment facilities. Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Albany, and Suffolk Counties have prohibited both road spreading and acceptance of fracking waste at wastewater treatment plants.
– See more at: http://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/safeguard/gas-drilling/the-facts-about-new-york-and-fracking-waste/#sthash.F47U3WZa.dpuf
County Legislators speak out on banning drilling waste http://wp.me/pJm45-3jw
Riverkeeper obtained from NYS DEC records from 2011-2013 documenting brine-spreading on NYS’s roads.
FracTracker has now mapped that information.http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=eb1904df42c848ed967a48c52e873c91
Syracuse Storage Facility Environmental Products and Services:
AVON — The Town of Avon passed a resolution Thursday evening to resume action on a 12-month moratorium on natural gas exploration and extraction, or hydrofracking. The development came after representatives from the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Conservation office (DEC) approached local leaders with a proposal to shut down the brine processing plant currently operating in Leicester.The Leicester brine processing plant exists to treat brine that is being pumped from the Azko salt mine, which collapsed in 1994. According to officials, the plant operates at a cost of $200,000 per month, currently being paid by Azko’s insurance company, Zurich.A number of local Town Board officials were present at earlier meetings, including Supervisors from the Towns of Avon, Geneseo, Leicester, Mount Morris and York. At those meetings they were reportedly asked by Tim Hoffman, from the State Attorney General’s Office, and by other state officials, to keep the matter private. However, citing concerns for public safety, the issue was brought to the public’s attention this week in the Avon, Leicester and York Town Board meetings.According to Town of Avon Supervisor David LeFeber, the old salt mine is still producing 15 gallons of brine, or water with very high concentrations of salt, per minute. The plant treats the brine and releases the treated water into Little Beards Creek. Without the processing plant, brine may spill into natural water sources in the region, contaminating natural water sources and potentially impacting drinking water and agriculture.“Since we talked about this operation [hydrofracking], we thought the State was going to issue permits, the State was going to monitor things, the State was going to make sure that our resources are protected.” said Avon Town Supervisor David Lefeber. “Businesses come and go, but our ability to produce food and have fresh water is a huge thing and somebody’s got to protect that.”The Town of Avon passed a resolution 3-2 Thursday to have Town Lawyer James Campbell begin drafting a new moratorium on hydrofracking. Board members Dick Steen and Bob Ayers voted against the resolution; David LeFeber, Tom Maiers, and Jim Blye voted for the motion.A source with close knowledge of the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, told theGeneseeSun.com that the DEC was recently involved in a temporary shut down of the brine processing plant, during which tests were conducted to process fracking fluid trucked up from Pennsylvania. According to the source, if successful, the plant could serve as a potential future site for processing fracking fluids.The plant was built in 2005 and cost $8.2 million, which was paid for by Zurich, presumably as part of Akzo’s mitigation requirements.At a Town of York Board meeting held later Thursday after the Avon meeting, the same concerns were raised. Board members expressed strong interest in obtaining independent geological and scientific surveys before even considering a shut down of the brine processing facility.“Our job is to protect our community,” said York Deputy Supervisor Lynn Parnell.“These towns are justifiably concerned that the State and the DEC are attempting to delay this information from being made available to the public,” said Attorney Jim Campbell, who represents the Towns of Avon, Leicester and York. “Our concern is that the ink might already be dry on a deal between the New York State Attorney General, the DEC, and Zurich. Such a deal could have profound impacts for Livingston County and should only be considered after adequate dissemination of the facts and an opportunity for public input.”
Is Brine from Propane Storage Domes Any Safer Than Drilling Waste?
Emerging Trend to Spread Drilling Waste on Highways
More and more highway departments across the country are adopting the practice of spreading brine on the roads to suppress dust in the summer and to melt ice in the winter. To a large extent this trend is fueled by the ever mounting volumes of salty waste produced by the country’s high volume hydraulic fracturing boom. Looking for ways to dispose of the waste, many drilling companies are supplying this brine free of charge to cash-strapped municipalities.
But is it safe to spread this on our roads and highways?
Citizens and local officials are beginning to have second thoughts. They’re concerned about exposure to residual drilling chemicals, toxic heavy metals and radioactivity often found in drilling waste -especially waste coming from the Marcellus Shale. On December 18th the Tompkins County Legislature voted to prohibit the disposal of fracking waste on county roads. This past June, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and 75 other New York State legislators from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to ban the use statewide of drilling waste on our roads (http://www.toxicstargeting.com/MarcellusShale/documents/letters/2012/06/13/legislators-letter) .
Alternative Sources of Brine
Still, the inexpensive deicing efficacy of brine compared to the use of rock salt is very attractive to municipalities. That’s why responsible highway departments are seeking other sources of brine for road spreading. Some are fabricating their own brine by mixing road salt with fresh water. Others have found non drilling related sources of brine, hoping to eliminate the possibility that it could contain residual fracking chemicals. New York State Department of Transportation Region 3 (http://www.ithaca.com/news/trumansburg/article_cb12da0e-5ce5-11e1-a920-0019bb2963f4.html ) and many local municipalities are using or are looking into using non drilling related brine from the former TEPPCO gas storage facility at Harford Mills which now belongs to Enterprise Products Partners (“one of the largest publicly-traded energy partnerships and a leading North American provider of midstream energy services” http://www.enterpriseproducts.com/corpProfile/businessProfile.shtm ).
This brine comes from two large salt domes used for storing propane. The brine is kept in a large holding pond on the surface and is pumped underground to stabilize the structure of the domes when gas is removed and sent to market. When new gas is pumped back into the domes for storage, brine is pushed out to the surface and stored again in the large holding pond. This repetitive cycle of filling and removing liquid from the domes erodes the salt structure over time and increases the capacity of the domes. It also increases the volume of brine they produce, sometimes more than the holding pond can handle. Enterprise Partnership sells this excess brine to the state and to municipalities for road spreading.
Is Enterprise Partnership’s Brine Safe for Road Spreading?
Here are six things worth researching in more detail.
1. Proximity of the salt domes to the Marcellus shale.
According to DEC permits for the facility at Harford Mills (http://www.dec.ny.gov/enb2006/20060419/Reg7.html), the salt domes are located approximately 3,000 feet below the surface. And according to contour maps cited by the USGShttp://www.marcellus.psu.edu/resources/PDFs/USGS2005-1268.pdf, the bottom of the Marcellus shale layer is also approximately 3,000 feet below the surface in the vicinity of Harford Mills. Although the geologic formation where the salt is located (the Salina) is separated from the Marcellus by the Helderberg and Tristates layers , is it possible that fissures and cracks in those over lying layers and the ever expanding size of the salt domes below could allow a comingling of Marcellus Brine with the Syracuse Salt Brine of the Salina layer? If so, is the Harford Mills Facility producing a brine laden with toxins typically associated with the Marcellus layer: ie. the same heavy metals and the radioactivity (http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/ogdsgeischap5.pdf )?
2. Ground water concerns in Harford Mills.
According to a report written by John Helgren, formerly of the Cortland County Health Department, back in the 1970’s a large surface spill of brine in the Harford/Harford Mills area flowed into the local surface water and then into the ground water and irrevocably polluted a number of private drinking water wells in the area (http://www.tcgasmap.org/default.asp?metatags_Action=Find%28%27PID%27,%279%27%29#Comments%20on%20SGEIS ). Current members of Cortland County Health Department say this toxic brine plume has not dissipated and is still slowly traveling underground some 40 years later.
In order to remedy the loss of drinking water to the local residents, the Harford Water District was formed. A public well was drilled and it currently supplies some 50 homes with water. Unfortunately, according to a report published by the New York Times , water from the Harford Water District has been found to exceed the health limits for arsenic, radium 226, radium 228, and radon ( http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/ny/cortland/ny1101762-harford-water-district-1 ) .
If these pollutants exceed health limits in aquifers near the surface in Harford, what are their levels in the deeper formations –like the Marcellus, or the Salina?
3. Relevance, accuracy and frequency of testing.
Relevance. Although laboratories like LSL of East Syracuse have tested the brine at the Harford Mills Facility, are they testing for all of the substances of concern? Recent analytical results from that lab make no mention of radium, radon or of radioactivity.
The test results do mention elevated levels of bromide, but fail to mention the danger of toxic brominated trihalomethanes that can form after bromides are exposed to water purification procedures (http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/environment/bromide-a-concern-in-drilling-wastewater-212188/ ). Can the road spreading of brine containing elevated levels of bromides endanger municipal drinking water supplies where water purification procedures are in place?
Accuracy. One of the problems associated with testing brine stored open holding ponds is the presence of a layer of fresh water floating on the surface of the brine. After heavy precipitation, the holding pond can pick up significant volumes of fresh water that can temporarily dilute the brine. Can this dilution skew the accuracy of the testing? Recent test results from Harford Mills say, “Due to sample matrix interference, the sample was diluted and the reporting limits were raised accordingly.” Does this mean that the concentrations of potential toxins were not measured accurately?
Frequency. How often does the DEC require testing at the Harford Mills Facility? Is annual testing adequate? Does all brine in the holding pool originate exclusively from the Harford facility? If not, should the brine be re tested each time brine from other sources is added?
4. Cumulative effects.
Do the DEC tolerances for toxic substances in one truck load of brine take into account the cumulative impact of many truckloads applied to our roads over a season, or thousands of truckloads over decades? Of particular concern are cumulative impacts near the municipal drinking water well-heads.
5. Provenance of the Brine.
What guarantees do municipalities have that the brine coming from Enterprise Partnerships originates exclusively from the Harford Mills salt domes? Is there anything in their contracts with municipalities that commits to this? During the winter season, for example, when consumer demand for propane is high, will the facility need more brine than it has to stabilize the salt domes? Will the company then turn to drilling operators to provide them with drilling waste to serve that purpose?
One surprising revelation in LSL’s lab report is the elevated level of surfactants. It might be worth inquiring as to why surfactants would be present in a gas storage dome. Surfactants are routinely used in drilling and in hydrofracking. AirFoam HD is a brand used at some well sites in Pennsylvania, and it is composed largely of 2 Butoxy Ethanol, a known human endocrine disrupter and carcinogen. Were the surfactants discovered at elevated levels in the Harford Mills brine composed of 2 butoxy Ethanol? The reports do not say.
Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania
Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania
The debate surrounding the safety of shale gas development in the
Appalachian Basin has generated increased awareness of drinking
water quality in rural communities. Concerns include the potential
for migration of stray gas, metal-rich formation brines, and hydraulic
fracturing and/or flowback fluids to drinking water aquifers.
A critical question common to these environmental risks is the
hydraulic connectivity between the shale gas formations and the
overlying shallow drinking water aquifers. We present geochemical
evidence from northeastern Pennsylvania showing that pathways,
unrelated to recent drilling activities, exist in some locations
between deep underlying formations and shallow drinking water
aquifers. Integration of chemical data (Br, Cl, Na, Ba, Sr, and Li) and
isotopic ratios (87Sr∕86Sr, 2H∕H, 18O∕16O, and 228Ra∕226Ra) from
this and previous studies in 426 shallow groundwater samples and
83 northern Appalachian brine samples suggest that mixing relationships
between shallow ground water and a deep formation
brine causes groundwater salinization in some locations. The
strong geochemical fingerprint in the salinized (Cl > 20 mg∕L)
groundwater sampled from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven
aquifers suggests possible migration of Marcellus brine through
naturally occurring pathways. The occurrences of saline water do
not correlate with the location of shale-gas wells and are consistent
with reported data before rapid shale-gas development in the region;
however, the presence of these fluids suggests conductive
pathways and specific geostructural and/or hydrodynamic regimes
in northeastern Pennsylvania that are at increased risk for contamination
of shallow drinking water resources, particularly by fugitive
gases, because of natural hydraulic connections to deeper
“New research on Marcellus Shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania may only add fuel to the debate over whether the industry poses long-term threats to drinking water.
A paper published on Monday by Duke University researchers found that gas drilling in northeastern Pennsylvania did not contaminate nearby drinking water wells with salty water, which is a byproduct of the drilling.
“These results reinforce our earlier work showing no evidence of brine contamination from shale gas exploration,………”
“Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Pennsylvania may contaminate drinking-water supplies, a study by Duke University professors concluded……..”
Rising Shale Water Complicates Fracking Debate
Gives a window into how confused many citizens (and politicians) must be at this point (in time).
Also shows, I believe the ENORMOUS influence of the industry on the media – sorta like: no evidence that smoking causes cancer but probably even higher stakes.
Ohio taking in flood of Pennsylvania brine for disposal
Much more toxic wastewater entering state, despite fee hike
The Columbus Dispatch
He said his two 100-barrel tanker trucks used to deliver Pennsylvania brine to Ohio injection wells three days a week. “Now, they work about six days a week,” Parrott said.
FILED UNDER WASTE
Dr. Conrad Voltz, formerly of the Center for Environmental Health and Justice at U Pitt, testified in front of a Senate subcomittee today. (4/11/11)
From a study he and his students did at a treatment plant that only handled “brine” from oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania, they found amongst 8 other effluents at levels that exceed standards:
Bromide, which forms mixed chloro-bromo byproducts in water treatment
facilities that have been linked to cancer and other health problems were found in
effluent at 10,688 times the levels generally found acceptable as a background in
On March 7, 2011 Melody Kight at SUNY-ESF presented the initial
findings of her research on identifying flowback fluid contamination.
“It’s very difficult to distinguish” the source of elevated chlorides
in well or surface water, whether they’re from road salt, frack fluid,
or other sources of NaCl (salt). Her studies indicate that the Na:Cl
ratio is at approximately 1:1 in all of them. Therefore, a different
ratio must be used to “fingerprint” frack fluid contamination.
Parker in 1978 characterized Appalachian Basin formation brine. He
found that as NaCl precipitates out of solution, bromide remains
dissolved in the brine.
Therefore, Ms. Kight rationalized, the Br:Cl ratio is the key. Her
studies, using water samples from the PADEP and various calculating
and modeling software, showed that salty water from frack fluid and
from other sources have different Br:Cl ratios.
Bromide has a 0.01 mg/L detection limit. Ms. Kight calculated that a
solution contaminated with as little as 0.0015% frack fluid could be
fingerprinted in this way.
Ms. Kight is known to be a vocal supporter of natural gas drilling, but her research may prove useful. Landowners should ensure their water, both pre- and post- drilling, has been checked for bromide.