1:23pm

Wed February 16, 2011
Energy

Fracking fluid tainted water may have been processed in Buffalo

Last week Buffalo's Common Council banned hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, or fracking, even though that's not happening locally.

This week Buffalo banned the city Sewer Authority (BSA) from treating fracking fluid.

Which apparently was happening.

Based on answers provided by BSA General Manager Dave Comerford during testimony in front of a council committee Tuesday, the city’s sewer facilities may have been treating fracking fluid for the past few years.

If the BSA had been treating fracking fluid, its leaders were unaware of it at the time, says Councilman Joe Golombek.

“There was a third party [contractor] that may have been delivering water that was fracked into the City of Buffalo," he says.

Golombek says according to Comerford's testimony Tuesday, the BSA has canceled its contract with the firm that may have brought in fracking water.

The Buffalo News reports that when queried by the BSA, the contractor responded that less than 25 percent of water it delivered to the city contained liquid from "gas well drilling.”

Why does it matter? Because, according to Golombek, the BSA's treatment process may not be appropriate for wastewater that contains fracking fluid.

“This fracked water does not list all the chemicals and carcinogens in [it] because [the fluids are] exempt from Department of Environmental Conservation and Environmental Protection Agency standards," Golombek says. "You wouldn’t necessarily know what’s in this water, especially if it’s coming in from a third party."

Golombek is hoping that the council's new law, banning the treatment of fracking fluid, will give a previously unspoken policy some teeth.

“I was not as concerned about what happened three or four years ago because there were no laws or policies in place that [BSA] wouldn’t accept this water," he says. "My concern was more this point forward. Two or three years ago people didn’t understand fracking. Six months ago people didn’t understand fracking. Once you educate people, that’s when you have to judge them on what they’re doing.”

Buffalo is only the second city in the country to ban fracking, and is the first in New York State to do so.