It all comes down to money, they say. Hard times, high taxes, no jobs, housing and rent costs up, food and gas prices rising — and the government just keeps on spending, spending, spending. Where will it all end?
But Wall Street is soaring, the fracked oil wells in North Dakota are booming, hedge fund managers are making bonuses of millions of dollars, and we spend billions keeping the peace around the world, sending our aircraft carriers out (at six inches per gallon of fuel) to keep an eye on terrorists that threaten our liberty. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that this kind of resource distribution is unsustainable. We can keep borrowing and printing money, spending millions to police and incarcerate our citizens for terrible behavior like fourth-degree menacing and using illegal self-medications, and billions on heath care that doesn’t work because we eat junk, breathe junk and are entertained by junk. And now Big Brother wants to take our guns away? What kind of a country do we live in, anyway?
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But we can’t do without a few things that are free now, part of our commons. Things like air and sunshine and good soil. And water.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation “adjusted” its water policy this past November to allow companies to take up to 100,000 gallons every day, free, to those industries who need it. So if a company hires two tank truck haulers, each taking their 100,000 gallons a day without a permit, in five days you have a million gallons of water, no cost. If the user is an energy company using it for fracking, that’s enough to frack a well. Such a deal.
But what happens to the waste, since that water comes up polluted with unknown chemicals and radiation? No problem. There are five towns in New York state that will let you dispose of that waste, along with the drilling waste, drill cuttings, flowback fracking sand, basic sediment and brine, with no environmental impact statement or public hearing required.
Right now, the toxic waste from Pennsylvania wells alone is being shipped to Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, West Virginia and New York. In New York, these waste facilities and landfills are taking toxic waste that is radioactive, and abetting the second-largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the United States — those fracking wells for natural gas and oil.
Receivers of waste
As of March 2, the following facilities have received these tankers of toxic waste, some in a town near you. (Data from the industry itself at marcellusgas.org.)
Allied Waste Systems, Niagara Falls, Niagrara County, has received 8,590 barrels/360,780 gallons of drilling waste; 1,320 barrels/55,440 gallons of fracking fluid; 76,841 tons/153,682,000 pounds of drill cuttings; 7,979 barrels/331,118 gallons of drill fluid and 56 barrels/2,352 gallons of flowback fracking sand.
A source in Pennsylvania tells me this waste company is owned by a Susquehanna, Pa., county supervisor, and this facility is on the Niagara River near Love Canal. Remember Love Canal?
Chemung County Landfill, Lowman, Chemung County, is on the Chemung River, just north of the Pennsylvania state line, and has taken 28,363 tons/56,726,000 pounds of drill cuttings and 30 barrels/1,260 gallons of flowback sand.
The CD Hakes Landfill in Painted Post, N.Y., has taken 16,207 tons/32,414,000 pounds of drill cuttings, and the Hakes Landfill in Painted Post (same facility) has taken eight barrels/336 gallons of drilling waste and 43,991 tons/87,982,000 pounds of drill cuttings. This landfill is just north of Corning on Means Creek and the Chemung River.
Hyland Facility Association in Angelica, Allegany County, has taken 83 barrels/3,486 gallons of drilling waste; 36,931 tons/73,822,000 pounds of drill cuttings and 198 barrels/8,316 gallons of flowback fracking sand. Angelica is in the middle of Allegany County on a feeder to the Genesee River. This facility also took four barrels/168 gallons of basic sediment and 445 barrels/18,640 gallons of brine.
Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, Seneca County, sound idyllic, but it took 5,206 tons/10,412,000 pounds of drill cuttings. Waterloo is between Geneva and Seneca Falls and is in the wine country between two Finger Lakes and state parks, Seneca and Cayuga.
Spreading it around
These facilities are on major highways, near creeks and rivers and parks. The waste brine and sand is spread on highways and roads during the winter to de-ice them and in summer as “a dust suppressant.” Then it runs off into the water supplies of the nearby villages and farms. The sites here and in the other states are mostly in very small towns, and bring a “welcome windfall” to their local economy.
When asked about fracturing fluid reports and accidents, the answer given is that “the report is not yet available for this site.”
Are you outraged yet? Why is it still legal for toxic and radioactive waste to be dumped in the state of New York? The DEC and the governor surely know how many New Yorkers feel about fracking and pipelines, so why are these back-door dumpings being permitted, allowing our precious land, air and water to be poisoned? Why haven’t we closed the Pennsylvania borders to this obscene violation of good sense and the health of our land and citizens?
Maybe it really is all about money. Shame on us.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.