Monday, April 30, 2012

New York DEP...Fracking Waste is NOT Medical Waste

The Medical Waste tracking Act of 1988 defines medical waste as "any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals." This definition includes, but is not limited to:
  • blood-soaked bandages
  • culture dishes and other glassware
  • discarded surgical gloves
  • discarded surgical instruments
  • discarded needles used to give shots or draw blood (e.g., medical sharps)
  • cultures, stocks, swabs used to inoculate cultures
  • removed body organs (e.g., tonsils, appendices, limbs)
  • discarded lancets
So, one might ask, "What does Medical Wastes have to do with Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing, and the diabolical industrial practice nicknamed Fracking?"  As unbelievable as it may seem, the New York DEC plans to treat the waste water streams from fracking along the same lines as Medical Wastes are treated, rather than classifying them for what they are, "Lethal Hazardous Wastes"!  Now to understand how ridiculous it for the NY DEC to wrongfully classify and treat Fracking waste along the same lines as Medical Waste, we should look at some of the requirements the US EPA has when a waste is classified as being hazardous...keep in mind, the waste does not have to meet ALL THESE CRITERIA, but instead only has to meet ANY OF THE CRITERIA.  Any, as in ONE!

Lets start with Benzene shall we?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified Benzene as a Class A carcinogenic. Benzene exposure can result in the development of leukemia. Variations of leukemia have been linked to Benzene exposure, including:
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia

Symptoms of Benzene Exposure

People that are exposed to Benzene in high levels or for long periods of time might experience the following symptoms:
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Loss of consciousness
Benzene exposure to the eyes and skin can cause tissue injury and irritation. Drinking water containing high levels of Benzene can cause:
  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Death
Guess what folks...benzene is injected underground in hydraulic fracturing, and the extraction process also causes naturally occurring deposits of benzene to surface (Hess 1998, EPA Final 2004 4-11).  OK, lets try to understand this...Benzene is by US EPA classifications a hazardous waste.  The (un)Natural Gas industry injects Benzene into the ground to FRACK A WELL, and when the well has been fracked, even more Benzene is released.  Said Benzene gets into the environment (air, water, ground), thus opening up exposure pathways that will see humans exposed to a chemical that is a know cancer causing agent, a chemical that can cause us to lose consciousness, a chemical that CAN CAUSE DEATH...those are some serious medical concerns that all New Yorkers should be concerned with...

Light bulb moment!

So that is why the NY DEC wants to classify and treat fracking wastes as Medical Wastes...said wastes are going to cause us folks serious health issues! that's the thinking?  Let's not put all the blame on the NY DEC...the US EPA seems to have blood on its own hands when it comes to being p front and honest when it comes to chemicals in fracking fluids, and the health risks they WILL PRESENT TO US HUMANS.
In a draft 2002 report, EPA reported that at the point of injection, nine hydraulic fracturing chemicals violated water quality standards (EPA Fracturing Draft 2002). This assertion was edited out before the final report was published. The published report did note that fracturing fluids are likely to remain underground and are “likely to be transported by groundwater supplies” (EPA Fracturing Final 2004).
So, the (un)Natural Gas industry does not like US EPA problem, they just get those results edited out, and that changes everything...right? As the Church Lady would say, "Isn't that SPECIAL"?  Not to be out done, wanting to get in on all the killing of human beings, Dick Cheney and our United States government jumped into the fray in 2005 solving the issue once and for all by granting the (un)Natural Gas industry an exemption from the Clean Drinking Water Act...much like the NRC does with regulations when the nuclear industry cannot meet standards, GRANT AN EXEMPTION!
In 2005, Congress exempted most hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act but said the act would apply to fracturing with diesel fuel (SDWA Exemption 2005).
Meanwhile, here in our little community we are waiting for Steve Vegliante and the Fallsburg Town Board to let us know when the promised Public Informational Meeting on FRACKING is going to be held as said board considers a proposed ban on fracking for our community...with this kind of information out in the public domain, one has to wonder why the delay...PASS THE BAN!  Seriously...can we really trust the DEC to do the right thing, or is our community better off passing a ban on fracking while we still can?

Some other reasons to JUST SAY NO to FRACKING:

  • Thousands of post-1980 wells are exempt from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that holds most industries accountable for cleaning up hazardous waste.
  • Thousands of post-1980 wells were exempted from the Clean Air Act, which limits emissions of nearly 190 toxic air pollutants, including many emitted by oil and gas companies (Mall et al. 2007, Clean Air Act 2008).
  • Thousands of the nearly 270,000 wells drilled in the West since 1980 are exempt from the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986. 
  • The nearly 270,000 oil and natural gas wells drilled in the West since 1980 have enjoyed an exemption from the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), passed in 1976 to establish a cradle-to-grave hazardous waste management program (RCRA History). 

Are you starting to see a TREND HERE?  The (un)Natural Gas industry has been exempted from almost every rule meant to protect human health and the environment, has been exempted from almost every law that could and should hold them legally liable when they screw it all up, which they certainly will do.  Give Steve Vegliante a call, tell him the time for Fallsburg to pass a fracking ban IS NOW.