- License to Dump: Despite Fracking Ban, NYers Saddled with Radioactive Fracking Waste

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2015 

Despite Fracking Ban, NYers Saddled with Radioactive Fracking Waste

New report lifts the veil on how NYS has enabled Pennsylvania to dump

more than 460,000 tons of fracking waste inside our borders

Albany – A new report from Environmental Advocates of New York sheds light on the practice of potentially radioactive out-of-state fracking waste getting dumped in New York despite Governor Cuomo’s ongoing implementation of a ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

“Fracking wastes are notoriously toxic and radioactive,” said Liz Moran, water and natural resources associate, and report author. “Despite knowing the public health concerns, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) enables New York landfills to accept Pennsylvania’s fracking waste with little oversight. If fracking isn’t safe for New Yorkers, then waste from other states’ fracking operations isn’t safe for New Yorkers either.”

Key Concerns

To date, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reports that at least 460,000 tons of solid fracking waste and 23,000 barrels of liquid waste have been dumped in New York landfills. Comparatively, the DEC says the state does not accept this type of waste.

Additionally:

  • In 2013, radiation detectors in Pennsylvania were triggered more than 1000 times by the same kind of fracking waste accepted by New York, signaling dangerous levels of radiation – while not a single radioactive detector was set off by New York landfills.
  • Leachate (toxins from solid waste that leach into collection pools) from landfills ends up in New York’s wastewater treatment plants, none of which are capable of ridding water of radiation or other dangerous chemicals.
  • The DEC has failed to implement standardized oversight, regulation or testing, and has fallen far short of the strong public health safeguards that guided the state Department of Health’s fracking review.

The report can be found online.

A Lack of Oversight

In addition to loopholes within state regulations which allow potentially radioactive fracking waste to make its way into New York under the guise that it is basic “construction debris,” Environmental Advocates’ report also spotlights DEC’s:

  • Inconsistent practices in the permitting process for landfills which accept fracking waste.
  • Conflicting implementation of a DEC “drill cuttings only” rule which allows vast amounts of fracking waste other than drill cuttings to be dumped.
  • Severely limited leachate testing which fails to establish the long-term environmental impacts of dumping fracking waste.

“Drillers view waste as simply part of doing business: create it and then get rid of it--and let disposal facilities and the public shoulder the risk,” said Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator at Earthworks. “To truly protect its residents and water resources from fracking, New York should address waste issues and follow the recommendations in this report.”

Gary Abraham, a lawyer representing the group Residents for the Protection of Lowman and Chemung said, “This report shows that massive volumes of such wastes continue to be imported into New York from Pennsylvania, and leachate from the landfills where the waste is disposed is becoming more and more radioactive. Closing gaps in the fracking ban is necessary to avoid a public health crisis that could last millennia.”

Recommendations

In addition to outlining key concerns, License to Dump includes a roadmap for Governor Cuomo and his administration to follow in order to fulfill their promise to protect New Yorkers from the dangers of fracking, including:

  • Closure of both the hazardous waste and radioactive loopholes (closure could be done with the issuance of a waste-specific “emergency” rule-making process along with the release of the final fracking ban).
  • Incorporation of federal TENORM standards into state regulations which will ensure fracking waste is treated as radioactive waste.
  • Requiring the monthly leachate testing of radiation monitors at all landfills.
  • Prohibiting leachate with greater than 5pCi/L from being disposed of at wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Publicly disclosing all past and ongoing details about landfills accepting oil and gas waste.

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