Ban on Radioactive Fracking Waste Passed by Putnam County, NY Legislators
A coalition of health and environmental groups gathered in Carmel, New York yesterday following the meeting of the Putnam County Board of Legislators to congratulate the legislators for voting to prohibit the sale, application and disposal of waste products in the County from natural gas drilling operations.
The new law bans the sale of fracking waste, the processing of fracking waste at County and privately operated wastewater treatment plants, and the application of fracking brine on County roads and private property including applications for de-icing and dust control purposes. Putnam County joins the ranks of other county governments, including Westchester and Ulster Counties, that have already enacted similar legislation to protect their water supplies and the health and safety of their residents by banning radioactive gas drilling waste. The groups are urging County Executive MaryEllen Odell to sign the legislation immediately and are also strongly urging local Putnam municipalities to adopt similar local laws without delay.
All gas drilling technologies involve the use of hundreds of toxic chemicals and large quantities of water to extract the gas from deep underground. Much of this highly toxic mixture returns to the surface with the gas along with other contaminants including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, brine (approximately eight times saltier than sea water) and high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials, including radium-226 and radium-228, which are known human carcinogens. Radium-226 has a half-life of 1600 years and is linked to bone, liver and breast cancers. Other chemicals in fracking fluid are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
"Whether or not high-volume hydrofracking is permitted in New York State, the disposal of highly contaminated and radioactive gas drilling wastewater, drill cuttings and sludge poses an immediate public health threat for all New Yorkers. Waste from active vertical gas wells in New York State as well as hydrofracking operations in Pennsylvania is being spread on New York roads for de-icing and dust control and being accepted by New York landfills, and wastewater treatment facilities," said Ellen Weininger, educational outreach director for Grassroots Environmental Education.
"With lax oversight from the state and absence of federal and state regulations, local governments are filling the void and stepping in to protect their residents from dangerous exposures. We commend the Putnam County Board of Legislators for fulfilling that responsibility entrusted to them by passing this critically important legislation and strongly urge Putnam municipalities to take immediate steps to protect the public health of their residents by enacting similar legislation."
Kate Hudson, watershed program director at Riverkeeper, said, "This legislation is a crucial step toward protecting Putnam County residents from the harmful health effects of improper handling and disposal of fracking waste. It is extremely important for Putnam municipalities to act quickly to pass legislation to prohibit the spreading of fracking brine on town roads and properties and prevent the acceptance of fracking waste at locally-owned waste water treatment facilities. We strongly encourage Putnam towns to act in concert with other municipalities across the state that have enacted similar bans to further safeguard Putnam’s drinking water supplies from heavy metals, naturally occurring radioactive materials, brine and other pollutants that are the toxic byproducts of fracking."
"This far-sighted legislation will protect Putnam County's irreplaceable water resources - its aquifers, streams, wetlands, recharge areas and reservoirs - from contamination by long-lived, cancer-causing radioactive elements. It will help protect the health of all Putnam residents,” said Marian Rose, PhD, president emeritus of Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition.
“Thanks to the Putnam County Legislature for passing this important legislation to protect county residents and wildlife from radioactive and chemically toxic waste,” says Paula Clair, concerned Putnam County resident. “Since companies from nearby areas in Pennsylvania and New York have large quantities of this waste to dispose, we look to our towns to enact similar protection within their borders.”
Radioactive, toxic waste from gas drilling activities can potentially cause irreversible damage to water, air, land, soil and food supplies. Although this waste is hazardous and in fact exceeds the legal criteria for hazardous waste classification, it is categorized as “industrial” under federal and state laws as a result of special exemptions given to the oil and gas industry. These exemptions eliminate tracking requirements for its handling, storage, treatment and disposal of the waste.
Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to treat chemicals, contaminants and highly radioactive materials present in hydrofracking waste. High bromide levels in this waste are highly corrosive to equipment and can react during water treatment to form brominated trihalomethanes, which are linked to bladder and colon cancers and are associated with birth defects.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.