April 13, 2015
To: Honorable Members of the Albany County Legislature
Herald L. Joyce Albany County Office Building
112 State Street
Albany, NY 12207
Re: Local Law “D” for 2014 “Disposal of Waste Associated With Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Extraction and Storage Activities in Solid Waste Management Facilities”
Dear Albany County Legislators:
We, the undersigned, write to express our strong support for Local Law “D” for 2014, which will prohibit the introduction of natural gas and oil waste into any waste management facility operated within Albany County.
New York State is in the process of banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” due to public health and environmental impacts. However, this doesn’t mean that New Yorkers are safe from the dangerous side effects of this practice. Since 2010, five landfills in New York State have accepted at least 510,000 tons and 23,000 barrels of fracking waste from operations in Pennsylvania. While we are hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo will direct his administration to ban this practice, until then it is critical local officials take the lead to protect our communities.
Fracking waste is notoriously toxic and radioactive. It has been revealed that up to 300 different chemicals may be in fracking fluid, including known and suspected carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylene glycol. Additionally, studies have revealed that levels of radioactivity in fracking waste has been as high as 16,000 pCi/L, which is thousands of times higher than the 5pCi/L maximum contaminant level the EPA has determined for safe drinking water.
Clean water becomes significantly threatened when fracking waste is disposed in landfills, as the potentially radioactive run-off that is produced can collect in the landfill’s leachate pools. The water from leachate pools is eventually brought to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) where any untreated chemicals and radium could be discharged into streams and rivers – which may provide drinking water to thousands of people. There are no WWTPs in New York State that are capable of treating radiation. Radium-226 remains in the environment for 1,600 years and ingestion of radium can lead to diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer, and leukemia.
Despite the clear public health hazards, New York exempts fracking waste from laws and regulations governing hazardous waste transport and disposal, and regulations for radioactive waste. Currently, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provides little oversight over landfills that have been accepting fracking waste. Leachate test results from the landfills that have accepted fracking waste show increasingly high levels of radium-226. For example, leachate from Hakes C&D landfill in Painted Post, NY showed 37 pCi/L of radium-226 in 2012, and one year later levels of radium-226 increased to 180 pCi/L.
Because New York State does not have regulations to properly manage fracking waste and DEC lacks the resources necessary to adequately oversee fracking waste, the public turns once again to local governments to protect the public from the negative health impacts of fracking.
When Albany County passes this legislation, it will be the largest county in the state to do so, and would send an important message to other municipalities and state leaders. Your action will be precedent setting.
We urge you to vote in favor of Local Law “D” for 2014. Thank you for consideration of this matter.
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy
Energy & Health Program Associate
Center for Environmental Health
Water and Natural Resources Associate
Environmental Advocates NY
Environment New York
Food & Water Watch
Director, Educational Outreach
Grassroots Environmental Education
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter