Brine Spreading and Disposal on Roads–NY Bans and Legislation

westchesterwastewaterban-1 DECEMBER 3, 2013 LEAVE A COMMENT (EDIT)

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.

For a link to a particular ban, click on the county name: 

– See more at:

Riverkeeper obtained from NYS DEC records from 2011-2013 documenting brine-spreading on NYS’s roads.

FracTracker has now mapped that information.

Inline image 1

Syracuse Storage Facility Environmental Products and  Services:


Local Leaders Concerned Over Brine Facilty and Fracking Link – Genesee Sun


Local Leaders Concerned Over Brine Facilty and Fracking Link – Genesee Sun.

 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 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.”



Brine Spreading Summary


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 ( .

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 (  ) 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” ).

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 (,  the salt domes are located approximately 3,000 feet below the surface.   And according to contour maps cited by the USGS,  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  (  )?

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 (,%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  ( ) .

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  ( ). 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.

Bob Applegate


Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania


1121181109.full.pdf (application/pdf Object).

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


It’s hard to believe that the following two headlines are about the same study:
1) New Duke research shows no fracking contamination in PA
2) Pennsylvania Fracking Can Put Water at Risk, Study Finds
But that is exactly the case about the Duke study that was reported yesterday and circulated on various lists.  I have included links plus the first few lines of each story below.
Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina) (via AP)
New Duke research shows no fracking contamination in PA

“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,………”

Bloomberg Businessweek
Pennsylvania Fracking Can Put Water at Risk, Study Finds

“Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Pennsylvania may contaminate drinking-water supplies, a study by Duke University professors concluded……..”

Obviously, for many people the headline will be the predominant message.  Here is the message the authors of the study chose for their paper:
Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania

Clearly the second (Bloomberg) headline represents the authors’ intended message more accurately.  In fact, the paper covers both topics – the migration of deep brines into shallow aquifers as well as the absence of evidence that these findings show a direct connection to gas drilling.  However, the potential for migration is certainly indicated, which refutes the industry claim that nothing can ever move up through the thousands of feet of “impermeable” rock.  The authors also point out the that the time scale for brine migration is not known but that migration of methane would be much faster, and that more investigation is necessary to understand the process.
For those interested, this was the story on yesterdays All Things Considered.
NPR News

Rising Shale Water Complicates Fracking Debate

I would say this was a “balanced” story.  I know that there is a lot of outrage (which I share) about “balanced stories” because of bogus counter claims by industry shills raising a “debate”, (best exemplified by climate change deniers).  But in this case the authors themselves point out the limitations of their study and proper reporting should present this.
The coverage of this story (an abbreviated form of the AP story) on local NPR station WSKG was so truncated that it, in my mind, left the listener with little understanding of the study.
Jim Weiss


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 | The Columbus Dispatch


Ohio taking in flood of Pennsylvania brine for disposal | The Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio taking in flood of Pennsylvania brine for disposal

Much more toxic wastewater entering state, despite fee hike

Sunday, June 19, 2011  09:47 PM

The Columbus Dispatch

Millions of barrels of salty, toxic wastewater from natural-gas wells in Pennsylvania are coming into Ohio despite efforts to keep it at bay.In June 2010, Ohio quadrupled the fees that out-of-state haulers must pay to dump brine into 170 disposal wells.Ohio officials thought that raising the fees to 20 cents per barrel from 5 cents would help keep the brine in Pennsylvania, where drilling has exploded since the discovery of huge gas deposits deep in Marcellus shale. Ohio wants to keep its injection wells open for Ohio brine, which also might explode in volume if the state’s own shale begins to give up natural gas.But then, Pennsylvania officials told 27 sewage-treatment plants to stop dumping brine into streams. The state’s geology doesn’t support brine-injection wells.Ohio’s does.From January through March, nearly half the brine that went into disposal wells in Ohio came from Pennsylvania and other states, said Tom Tomastik, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ disposal-well program.That’s 1.18 million barrels of brine, enough to fill 76 Olympic-sized swimming pools.“It’s a dramatic increase,” Tomastik said. “No one was really foreseeing Pennsylvania shutting down its treatment plants.”None of this sits well with environmental groups that consider brine – and the hydraulic fracturing process used to draw gas from the ground – a threat to groundwater and drinking water.Trent Dougherty, staff attorney with the Ohio Environmental Council, said the state should examine what’s in the brine before it is pumped underground.“This is a brand-new set of chemicals and constituents that are going to be put in these wells,” Dougherty said. “We need more study to make sure what’s going in there should be allowed to go in there.”In hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” drillers inject millions of gallons of pressurized water laced with industrial chemicals into wells to break apart the shale and help release gas.About 15 percent of that water comes back up, tainted with salt, drilling chemicals and hazardous metals. After they’re “fracked,” the wells continue to produce brine that contains higher concentrations of salt, metals and minerals.Pennsylvania sewage plants dumped so much brine that it became a threat to drinking water. The brine contains high levels of bromides, which help form hazardous compounds called trihalomethanes in drinking water.Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett made it clear to the plants to stop dumping brine. Kevin Sunday, spokesman for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, said all the plants have stopped.Tomastik said Ohio’s disposal wells are safe. “We have not had any subsurface contamination of groundwater since we took over the program in 1983,” he said.Pennsylvania’s loss was great for waste haulers such as Kim Parrott, owner of Bessemer Supply Inc. in Bessemer, Pa.

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.


Bromide linked to oil/gas “brines”


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
surface water.

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.

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