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Tusten bans use of fracking brine on roads

By Isabel Braverman
December 24, 2013

At its December meeting, the Tusten Town Board passed a resolution to ban the use of fracking brine on any town roads. The text of the resolution appears in the sidebar. All members of the board voted in favor of the resolution. Councilman Ned Lang was not in attendance.

The use of fracking brine on roads has been banned on county roads in Sullivan, and so far the Town of Tusten is the only town in the county to pass a ban. On June 21, 2012 the Sullivan County Legislature adopted Resolution 248-12, which is similar to Tusten’s resolution.

Fracking brine is put on roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization. Supervisor Carol Ropke Wingert said she was called to present this resolution because other towns in New York have been using brine on their roads. Despite a moratorium on fracking in New York State, more than a dozen municipalities have received state approval to spread a fracking byproduct on their roads.

The fluid can now be spread on roads in Wyoming, Erie, Cattaraugus, and Seneca counties, according to state documents obtained by Riverkeeper, a group that advocates for cleanup of the Hudson River. An additional 10 municipalities in Allegany and Steuben counties have received state permission to spread waste brine from natural gas storage. Nine counties have banned it.

Production brine largely comes from some of the 6,000 low-volume gas wells currently allowed in New York as well as some in Pennsylvania. The fluid can pollute rivers, streams and aquifers if not controlled properly, and it contains high levels of chloride, benzene and toluene, all of which can cause health problems in humans.

Concerns have been raised that even though Sullivan County banned the use of fracking brine, towns could still use it on their roads. Public Works Commissioner Edward McAndrew said that he is not aware of any plans by any town in the county to use such material. He also said that in the event any town were to start using such material then, regardless of whether such town is contracted to plow county roads, the Division of Public Works would request that the town not use such material near any intersection with any county road.