Stop Extraction Wastes from Coming to Connecticut

Jennifer Siskind

Will this be the year that all toxic, radioactive oil and gas extraction wastes, which includes fracking waste, are banned in Connecticut? The answer lies with YOU and how many of your friends and family reach out to state legislators to demand it. There is no oil or gas drilling in Connecticut, but the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is mandated by a law passed in 2014 to regulate this hazardous waste. DEEP may allow this waste to be imported for treatment or use here. The 2014 law has numerous loopholes, such as temporarily banning some wastes from only one drilling process known as “fracking.” But other extraction processes also produce toxic, radioactive waste.

 

New research from Penn State University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources prove what we’ve known for years could happen: use of deicers and dust suppressants is contaminating roads and run-off with radioactive radium and lead. These road spreading byproducts, made from brine coming out of all types of oil and gas wells, have been sold or given away in bulk to towns in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Radioactive brine deicer was also dyed blue, packaged in plastic jugs and sold in Ohio hardware stores and through internet sales by Lowes.

 


 

Another way waste is inappropriately disposed of is by adding drill cuttings to construction fill. This creates an inferior product, laden with silt that is prone to “slippage” or unstable conditions. Like the road spreading products, there is poor monitoring to determine if this fill is contaminated with radium, arsenic, lead or chemicals used during the drilling process. We do know it can be unstable. In Pennsylvania, a contractor held a permit to bring 200,000 tons of “drilling waste fill” to a brownfield site he was remediating. After bringing 40,000 tons of fill by dump truck, he discovered the material couldn’t support the weight of the building that was intended for this location. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has since rescinded all permits for using this waste in fill and for dust control.

 

Lobbyists for the Connecticut construction industry are already trying to defeat 2019 extraction waste bills. Staff hired by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is helping to set up these lobbying appointments with legislators. This is why we need YOU to speak out loudly now.

 

Radioactive effluent, discharged into waterways from treatment plants, results in increased radioactive build-up in waterway sediment. New research shows freshwater mussels in Pennsylvania are now radioactive. We must make sure this won’t happen to Connecticut waterways and the Long Island Sound. All of Long Island, New York City, Westchester County and other New York counties have banned extraction wastes for years. Paving, construction, infrastructure projects and road maintenance contracts continue uninterrupted and without problems, using clean fill and non-radioactive deicers. Opponents, including Connecticut Conference of Municipalities staff, the construction industry and the petroleum industry spread inaccurate information that banning all extraction wastes is a problem.

 

Eight state legislators have filed five bills to ban this waste. Sierra Club Connecticut members are needed to “bring the heat” to make sure the most protective language moves forward in the legislative process. You can help NOW by calling both your State Representative and State Senator working in Hartford (Note: State of CT legislators; do not contact Congress in D.C.).

 

Here’s what to say: “Please support a bill that bans ALL EXTRACTION WASTES FROM ALL OIL AND GAS WELLS. This will close the loopholes that are in the current moratorium and permanently protect our state.” Once we know which bill number is moving forward, please call them AGAIN to be sure they have signed up to “co-sponsor” this bill.

 

55 towns and cities have passed local ordinances to ban all extraction wastes, plus two more towns have weaker ordinances that ban only hydraulic fracturing wastes. Whether you live in one of these 57 communities or not, please help achieve a state-wide ban. DEEP is still mandated to write regulations, which could preempt local laws. Only by passing a state-wide ban will Connecticut residents be fully protected. We must make sure state and town budgets aren’t burdened by increased remediation expenses and our natural resources aren’t poisoned with radioactive radium and other toxins in this waste.

 

If you don’t have your legislators’ numbers and emails in your phone already, please visit www.cga.ct.gov to find their contact info. You can scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on Find Your Legislator.” Thanks for helping to ensure Connecticut isn’t another state contaminated with toxic, radioactive drilling-extraction-and-fracking waste.

Jennifer Siskind is the Local Coordinator for Food & Water Watch and a member of Sierra Club Connecticut.

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Photo: Deicers should not contain toxic extraction wastes!

Photo credit: Oregon Department of Transportation