NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- 2 On Your Side has confirmed the Niagara Falls Water Board is moving forward with plans to treat "fracking fluid" at its wastewater treatment plant following a feasibility study performed by an outside firm.
The board's plans, first reported in late July, were to investigate the possibility of treating the fluid, which is a toxic byproduct of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Through a statement, the Board confirmed its study is completed and it is moving forward with the project:
Although the NFWB has not advocated for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, should the State of New York allow drilling to proceed, and our wastewater treatment plant meet all requirements and regulations as set forth by the DEC, the NFWB potentially offers a solution to effectively and safely treat wastewater produced from drilling and would help mitigate concerns about impacts on public health and safety and the environment. In addition, treating wastewater from Marcellus Shale would provide the NFWB with a significant opportunity to increase revenues, provide financial stability to our organization and stabilize our rate structure over the long term, all to the benefit of NFWB ratepayers.
Environmental advocates are outraged.
"If this fracking waste is not treated correctly, it could contaminate our water," Rita Yelda, organizer of WNY Drilling Defense, said. "It's a potential risk."
Brian Smith with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said his group is highly concerned.
"Fracking waste can contain toxic chemicals, radioactivity, and be five-times saltier than seawater," Smith said. "The Niagara Falls sewage treatment facility is ill equipped to properly treat hazardous fracking waste. Allowing this would risk the discharge of toxic, radioactive, and caustic waste into our fragile Great Lakes ecosystem."
The "fracking fluid" is what comes out of the wells drilled to "fracture" the shale rock. The fluid is made up of water, sand, salt and dozens of chemicals, some of which are highly toxic. The fluid is injected into the wells at extreme pressure. Along with the natural gas, much of that fluid comes back up and must be properly disposed.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said the Niagara Falls Water Board "did share data with us. However, the facility has not applied for a modification to its current... permit, which it would need to do before it could accept or treat any high-volume hydraulic fracturing wastewater."
Sources tell 2 On Your Side the study was favorable to allowing the treatment of the fluid at the Niagara Falls plant. The DEC said, "Modifications would need to be made to the facilities and the facility would need approval from DEC" before the treatment could begin. No timeline has been set.
Fracking has caused controversy across the Marcellus Shale states due to concerns about contaminated water due to the drilling and extraction processes. New York State's moratorium on hydraulic fracturing continues; however, it is expected to end late this year or next.
Rita's group and other environmental advocates encourage the public to attend the Niagara Falls Water Board's next public meeting, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. on September 22.
A group of 59 New York state scientists sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo on Thursday expressing their doubts about the ability of municipal water systems to handle all the contaminants likely to be found in fracking fluid safely. (Originally reported on the Albany Times Union Green Blog.)