The Board of Wayne/Susquehanna R.E.S.C.U.E. believes that the Delaware River Basin Commission’s (DRBC) mandate is to protect the integrity of the water supplies in the Delaware River Basin.
Our contention is that in carrying out this mandate, the DRBC should adhere to the precautionary principle, which states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. The evidence that we have reviewed strongly suggests that the gas drilling industry in Pennsylvania has not only failed to meet this burden of proof but has, in fact, demonstrated that water contamination issues related to gas drilling are a very real and significant concern.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documentation has revealed that the wastewater produced by hydro-fracturing contains radioactivity and other toxic materials at levels that are higher than can be safely handled at wastewater treatment plants. A recent review of these EPA documents states that the available evidence “unequivocally and definitively establishes that the danger to our health and our environment from hydraulic fracturing is much greater than previously understood, that government regulations have not kept pace with the natural gas industry’s expansion and that government on every level lacks the manpower to adequately police the industry.”
As such, our contention is that hydrofracturing wastewater should be legally considered and treated as “hazardous waste” throughout all four states of the Delaware River Basin, and that proper disposal methods and locations should be in place for this waste prior to allowing permits for the hydro-fracturing of shale gas wells in the watershed.
As residents of Wayne and Susquehanna counties, we’ve needed to look no further than Dimock, PA for confirmation that the practical application of the current regulatory framework has failed to be an adequate safeguard against water contamination due to hydro-fracturing.
The DRBC’s own hydro-geologist states that about 1 million gallons of wastewater is generated per well. The latest predictions are for 15,000 to 18,000 wells in our area, which would mean 15 billion to 18 billion gallons of frack water without proper treatment facilities in place.
In light of these concerns, our question is: How can the commission responsibly allow gas drilling and hydro-fracturing to go forward in the river basin without first making certain that we have the water treatment capacity necessary within the four contiguous states of the river basin to handle the wastewater?
For information about R.E.S.C.U.E. and the wastewater from hydrofracking, visit www.rescue-nepa.org .
[Joann Morsch is secretary of the Wayne/Susquehanna R.E.S.C.U.E.]