US Energy’s Frack Water and the Buffalo Sewer Authority
by Geoff Kelly - posted 1:13 pm, January 24, 2011
In last week’s paper, we reported that US Energy, a regional natural gas driller headquartered in Getzville, told the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation of its intention to dispose of the fracking fluid it used in a natural gas well through the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s wastewater treatment facility. We based that report on a US Energy filing with DEC from 2008.
David Comerford, who heads the Buffalo Sewer Authority, told us last Wednesday that the BSA had never received wastewater from natural gas drilling operations.
The next day, we acquired three more DEC filings made by US Energy in 2010, for three different natural gas wells. These filings were made in 2010, and all listed the Buffalo Sewer Authority as a potential recipient of the fracking water produced by the wells. Here they are in PDF, with the locations of the wells redacted. The last item on each page lists potential recipients of the wastewater produced by the wells.
Doug Walch, president of US Energy, did not respond to request for comment last week but instead dispatched Brad Gill, a spokesman for the International Oil and Gas Association, to contact Artvoice on his behalf. Gill left a message at our office late last Wednesday afternoon, but has not returned our phone calls since then.
Fracking fluid consists primarily of water and sand, mixed with a cocktail of chemicals that includes many toxins and known carcinogens: methanol, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, napthalene, benzene, toluene, and xylene, to name just a few. About one quarter of the fluid used returns to the surface, where it is supposed to be stored in lined pits and eventually trucked away for disposal on premises licensed to handle the contaminants.
So are these chemicals and dozens of others being flushed into the Niagara River or not? How many US Energy wells are permitted by DEC on the understanding that the Buffalo Sewer Authority might receive the wastewater they produce? If so, is the Buffalo Sewer Authority licensed to accept and capable of handling such materials? We’re waiting to hear back from the Buffalo Sewer Authority and the DEC, as well as US Energy and/or the International Oil and Gas Association. When we have more, we’ll post it here.
UPDATE: Dave Comerford just called to reiterate that the Buffalo Sewer Authority does not receive frack water, so far as he can tell: He says US Energy contracts with Waste Technology Services, a Lewiston company, which delivers wastewater to BSA. But he says Waste Technology (to whom we called for a comment this morning) insists the water they discharge through BSA is just “runoff,” thought they admitted to him that it comes from natural gas drilling sites. But Comerford says BSA tests the water three times a year and they have never detected contaminants. He’s checking with DEC to find out more, he told us.
Meantime, DEC called back as well: They told us that the only facility in New York State to specifically request to be licensed to receive frack fluid is in Jefferson County.