A new report examines the possibility and 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.
The report, entitled “License to Dump,” documents incidents of fracking waste from Pennsylvania, a drilling state, transported to New York, which announced a ban on the process in mid-December after years of study.
Environmental Advocates of New York's Communications Director Travis Proulx says the Empire State keeps very little track of the import of fracking waste from other states. "Since 2010, Pennsylvania has reported shipping at least 460,000 tons of solid fracking waste into New York State landfills, as well as 23,000 barrels of liquid waste. What's clear, based on our report, the public health and environmental impact still exists, so long as the state enables other states, like Pennsylvania, to allow them to use us as their dumping ground."
The data is based on Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection records, which document what the report's author Liz Moran identifies as a major toxic and radioactive threat to New Yorkers. "Currently fracking wastes in New York State are exempt from regulations for hazardous waste. Fracking wastes are notoriously toxic. Radium 226 can last for 1,600 years in the environment. It can contaminate our water supplies, and if ingested, it can lead to lymphoma, bone cancer and leukemia."
Environmental Advocates of New York is calling on the Department of Environmental Conservation, which contests the report, to issue an emergency rule to classify waste from fracking operations as "hazardous." Travis Proulx explains the loophole: "We had to go to Pennsylvania to access this data. It's not available in this type of way in New York State, because New York State plays a semantical game, referring to the stuff as 'construction debris.' By calling it construction debris, it doesn't fall within all of the hazardous waste regulations that actually exist within state law."
A proposed measure to classify fracking waste as hazardous wasn't able to make it through the legislature in 2011. In an email, the New York DEC said the state only allows landfills to accept drill cuttings and mud. The state doesn't allow landfills to collect "wastewater or sludges from high-volume hydraulic fracturing wells. The agency also noted EA’s characterization that DEC has “little oversight” over landfills in the state "could not be further from the truth."
DEC Statement: The Environmental Advocates report is inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible. New York State landfills have not accepted and do not accept wastewater or sludges from high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) wells. New York has strong regulations on the types of materials that can be disposed of in landfills and DEC enforces these regulations to ensure all materials accepted at landfills are handled properly to protect the environment and public health.