Concerns about frack water aired

Date: February 28, 2011

MATT HUGHES mhughes@timesleader.com

HANOVER TWP. – Audience members asked a lot of questions at Tuesday\’s meeting of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Board meeting, but few walked away with the answers they sought.

The board has for the past 18 months been studying the feasibility of opening an additional facility to treat flow-back water produced by hydraulic fracturing, the process used by natural gas drillers to unlock gas trapped in shale formations.

About 50 packed the meeting room at the authority to comment on the project, which would be built on sanitary authority property in the Lyndwood section of the township.

They voiced concerns about air and noise pollution, the number of trucks that would visit the facility daily, chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials in the flowback water, and contamination of the Susquehanna River in the event of an accident.

Chairman James Hankey said the board is still conducting its study and considering different types of facility and different methods of bringing water there for treatment, and as such did not have the answers to many questions asked.

There are no concrete plans or timeline in place for the project, the board said.

When asked by audience members, Hankey responded he could not say if water treated by the facility would contain hazardous or radioactive chemicals, what would be done with sediment removed from treated water, how many trucks would be needed to bring water to the plant daily and what would happen if there were a chemical spill at the site or if the site were flooded.

The crowd grew most impassioned when Hankey said the board was asked to look into the possibility of building the treatment facility.

When asked by whom, Hankey stated “I\’m not sure,” prompting cries of “ah, come on, you know,” “pathetic,” and the names of natural gas drilling companies.

Township residents also questioned why the sanitary authority wants to build the facility in Hanover rather than in the northern tier, where gas drilling is much more prevalent.

“Can\’t you build a plant closer to where this activity is actually going on?” asked Frank Marra of Hanover Township. “We don\’t get the benefit of the leased property up there, and we want to get the tail end of it?”

Hankey said profits raised by the facility could reduce frequency and severity of sewer fees Wyoming Valley property owners pay.

After the meeting, board members referred questions to John Minora, spokesman for Pennsylvania Northeast Aqua Resources, the authority\’s consultant.

Minora said much of the water produced from Pennsylvania shale gas wells is currently being trucked to Ohio and West Virginia for treatment and disposal.

“We\’re closer,” Minora said. “We\’re reducing truck traffic, we\’re reducing wear and tear on the roads and we\’re reducing pollution.”

Minora added that existing infrastructure at the sanitary authority, including unused tanks that could be used to store treated water and excess heat currently being wasted by the authority, make the site an attractive one.

Minora said the authority is considering three methods of bringing water to the proposed facility: tanker trucks, rail transport, and piping in water from staging areas away from residential areas.

“We want to do it in a way that impacts on the community as minimally as possible,” he said.

Hankey said the authority would consider all scientific information the public submitted.

Members of the audience submitted a draft plan of the recently begun federal Environmental Protection Agency study of hydraulic fracturing\’s effect on water supplies recently, a scientific article about the health risks posed by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and the Pennsylvania State Police\’s FracNET enforcement effort, which targets trucks hauling water for gas drillers.

Tom Jiunta of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition also submitted a list of more than 40 questions about the project he hopes the authority will answer.

“I think their lack of transparency had the crowd quite perturbed,” Jiunta said of the board after the meeting.

“I think they need to be more forthcoming. … They need to go above and beyond to show that their decisions are science-based, not profit-based. People in Luzerne County demand accountability.”

Copyright: Times Leader

 

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Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.