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US Energy’s Frack Water and the Buffalo Sewer Authority

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.


  • chester

    Excellent work. This is what reporting is supposed to be about, isn’t it? Checking facts, running down leads, shining a light in the cesspool of “trust us.”

  • chester

    I suppose Comerford isn’t likely to just outright lie, but how would he know what was coming in in the trucks from Waste Technology? How many trucks are there? Testing three times a year seems pretty skimpy. What do the tests actually measure? Are they calibrated to find the bad things in frack water?

    How exactly is “runoff” defined, and how is it different from frack water?

    How much does the Sewer Authority charge to Waste Technology? What other companies/industries are bringing waste for treatment? How much to do they pay? What danger is there from transporting these waste waters over highways to Squaw Island?

  • Stringer

    This is a website for the Sewer Authority’s trucked in program: http://www.city-buffalo.com/Home/CityServices/BSA/industrial/truckedinwaste

  • KeepItSimple

    Classic Lose-Lose: Take out the water, figure out how to treat the poisons. Leave it in, thousands of Love Canal/Hinkley CA time bombs. By the way, Jefferson County what are you thinking? Your website ( http://www.co.jefferson.ny.us/ ) is plastered with pristine water scenes, sailboats, lighthouses, daisies, ducks, geese, fishermen. . .if that is what floats your tourism boat, this is a bad move!

  • KeepItSimple

    Buffalo can also refuse to purchase natural gas obtained by fracking. Philadelphia just did this.

  • SonOfAGum

    According to the Thomas Register the company in Lewiston New York brokering the gas fracking sludge is called Waste Technology Services, Inc.

  • Just askin’

    How many gallons of “runoff water” has Waste Technology Services, Inc. processed through the BSA? How many more gallons are possible for the BSA to accept under their current contract? When are the next trucks coming to bring this “water” to Buffalo’s Sewer Authority? Is there any way to clean methanol, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, napthalene, benzene, toluene, and xylene from wastewater? Does Canada have any say in discharges of toxins like methanol, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, napthalene, benzene, toluene, and xylene into the shared waters of the Niagara? How can a Professional Engineer reasonably accept a thrice-annual testing of industrial wastewater as adequate protection of the public? Is it possible that there is negligence and/or incompetence occuring, which is defined in Education Law and in the Rules of the Board of Regents. Professional misconduct includes the following:
    * Engaging in acts of gross incompetence or gross negligence on a single occasion, or negligence or incompetence on more than one occasion
    * Permitting or aiding an unlicensed person to perform activities requiring a license
    * Failing to return or provide copies of records on request
    (see http://www.op.nysed.gov/opd/)

  • SonOfAGun

    Just wonderin:

    What particular laboratory does the testing for BSA on the WTS disposals?

    WST?

  • Hugh K

    Perhaps the frack waste never actually gets to Buffalo and is just being dumped somewhere.

  • Peter A Reese

    Hugh K: You may be on to something. How about we just dump it into Spaulding Lake?