Tag Archives: Water quality

Lab study cuts fracking waste’s radioactivity | The Sanford Herald

See this story linked below from the Associated Press by way of the Sanford Herald.

Lab study cuts fracking waste’s radioactivity | The Sanford Herald.

This is a curious find: flowback water mixed with “acid drainage from mining, or any other salty water” precipitates a good chunk of the radioactive material out of the water, thus binding it into a solid, more easily disposable form. I am not sure, in terms of isolating and removing radioactive materials, how much this differs from a standing practice of allowing the flowback water to sit in an open pit at the drill site and evaporate so the nasty material will be left behind.

What is encouraging is to see that after mixing the fluids, the research found that radioactive material was bound in solids, and the salinity of the water had diminished enough that it could be used again in fracking. That process saves some water supply while isolating materials to be handled as hazardous waste. Note that this is something that will be helpful in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but not necessarily here in North Carolina since we do not have acid drainage from mining. {Ironically, it’s that acid wash that spilled in West Virginia causing 7 counties to be without public water supply, so this is still a nasty operation within a nasty operation.}

Also of note, since it was discussed today at the MEC meeting, the radioactivity of the disolved water in the flowback still has protection of the classified chemicals clause. We still don’t know what all is in the cocktail used in the slickwater fracturing process, but based on the discussion I heard in the meeting today (I was able to tune in to the middle portion, but not all of it: I would welcome more details on the meeting from those who were there or listened to the entire thing), the drilling operators would have to list on their permit request the chemicals to be used, and the state regulators would then acknowledge which are on the classified list. Regulators, as I understand it, would have to permit the site with appropriate chemical and wastewater storage, treatment, disposal, and spill response plan.

I am glad to see someone else in this article echo my feeling on the critical need for proper wastewater handling:

Tad Patzek, chairman and professor of the petroleum engineering
department at the University of Texas in Austin, cautioned that the
method could present problems in the field. The remaining water would
still be jam-packed with chemicals and toxins, he noted.

“That water can get spilled,” Patzek said. “That water can get into a shallow aquifer. There are many other considerations.”

The danger classification sign of radioactive ...

-BT

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Agenda for MEC meeting, Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NORTH CAROLINA

MINING AND ENERGY COMMISSION

January 14, 2014

9:00 a.m.

Archdale Building Ground Floor Hearing Room

512 N. Salisbury St.

Raleigh, NC

To join the meeting:
https://denr.ncgovconnect.com/mec011414/

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Draft Minutes from December 6th

MEC Quarterly Report

Sign In Sheets

 AGENDA

1. Call to Order – James Womack, Chairman of the Mining and Energy Commission

2. Moment of Silence and Pledge of Allegiance

3. Welcome and Notice of NCGS 138A-15 – Chairman Womack

In accordance with the State Government Ethics Act, it is the duty of every member of the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission to avoid conflicts of interest and potential conflicts. If any member knows of a conflict of interest or potential conflict with respect to matters coming before the Commission today, please identify the conflict or potential conflict at this time.

4. Roll Call of Commission Members – Chairman Womack

5. Approval of Minutes from Last Meeting – Chairman Womack

6. Committee Reports (10 minutes each, plus time for questions)

Administration of Oil & Gas Committee – Charles Holbrook

Rules Committee – Amy Pickle

7. Study Group Reports

Coordinated Permitting Study Group and Review of Study Group Report – Dr. Kenneth Taylor

Protection of Trade Secrets and Proprietary Information Study Group – Chairman Womack

8. Administration – Chairman Womack

Review of 2014 meeting schedule and proposed timelines

9. Overview of Proposed Revisions to the EMC’s Water Quality Rules – Evan Kane, DWR

10. Discussion & Action on Chemical Disclosure Rule, Chairman’s Mark – Chairman Womack

11. Lunch Break – 30 minutes

12. Discussion & Action on Setback Rule – George Howard

13. Public Comment

The public comment period will be limited to a total of 10 speakers and each speaker will be allowed three minutes to speak. The sign-up sheet will be available in the Ground Floor Hearing Room from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.

14. Concluding Remarks

a. Commission Members

b. Commission Counsel

c. Commission Chairman

15. Adjournment

Reminder to All MEC Members: Members having a question about a conflict of interest or potential conflict should consult with the Chairman or with legal counsel.

Reminder to MEC Members Appointed by the Governor: Executive Order 34 mandates that in transacting Commission business each person appointed by the Governor shall act always in the best interest of the public without regard for his or her financial interests. To this end, each appointee must recuse himself or herself from voting on any matter on which the appointee has a financial interest.

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Well contamination complaints point to fracking in 4 states: 3 thoughts

An Associated Press release is making the rounds in various media outlets this morning about well complaints in 4 states that seem to indict fracking as the source of contamination. Here is the article as shared through Yahoo News.

There are a couple items in the article that I want to call attention to:

One, it does not describe how a state defines a “complaint” or how the state compiled the data of these complaints. This may be a matter of semantics, but I want to point to North Carolina: if a private landowner has a well for his/her primary water supply, it is up to the owner to have the quality of the water tested via the health department, and if it tests positive for contaminants, then the local health department will notify the owner of that contaminant. Local Health Departments will keep data from those well water tests, anonymously, and I assume this article is citing such data. Note: Public water supply utilities, which are defined and regulated by the state, are required to publish a Consumer Confidence Report at least once a year to communicate water quality data, and also must issue public notices if their water quality has been compromised.

Two, I agree with Irina Feygina’s statement that…

…comprehensive information about gas drilling problems is important because the debate is no longer about just science but trust.

Regulators must observe data closely for patterns of contamination, and narrow potential sources of contamination from that data set. A private landowner’s well water quality test would not be available to the public, even if it simply states that water quality had been tested (i.e., no results published), but the health department would know where contaminants have been found.

This aspect of public trust in our regulatory agencies certainly raises eyebrows (again) as to why the state of North Carolina turned away grant money to conduct baseline water quality testing in the region likely to be open to hydraulic fracturing. And let restate, I have the utmost respect for the professional staff we have in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. DENR does make a great amount of information accessible to the public, most readily available via a searchable map of various permitted activities.

And finally, it is worth noting the percentages of the contaminated wells that appear to point to oil and gas drilling activity as the source of contamination. Based on the information in the article, 4% of complaints in Ohio, 3% in West Virginia and Texas, and 2% in Pennsylvania were linked to fracking (or conventional drilling in Texas). I do not want to disparage anyone who has lost use of their well, but these are not high percentages by any means. The Penn State study cited in the article documents a 40% failure rate of well quality meeting federal standards (though this is poorly defined since the EPA and DHHS/CDC have different minimum contaminant levels for drinking water); I would bet many rural North Carolina landowners would find the same true of their well water. Nonetheless, given the results reported in this AP story, the gas industry must stop saying there has been no contamination in drinking water due to fracking.

-BT

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Colorado study finds higher occurrence of contaminants near fracking sites

A researcher from the University of Missouri School of Medicine has found evidence of higher occurrence of endocrine disrupting chemicals near fracking sites when compared to presence in control areas. The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.

LATimes report on University of Missouri study finding endocrine disruptors at fracking sites

Based on the information in the abstract, the study collected samples from drilling sites, the Colorado River, and a control site in Missouri. The drilling sites had elevated levels of contaminants, and the Colorado River showed a higher level than that of the control site in Missouri. To be fair, the study does not indicate that these endocrine disrupting chemicals had been released directly into the natural system from fracking sites, but merely points to the evidence as indicating the increase in industrial activity in remote sites present a greater likelihood of contamination. The study certainly verifies the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the fracking process (something, you may recall, that Josh Fox mentions highlights in Gasland without making a qualitative link).

I want to emphasize here again: wastewater storage, treatment, and disposal are the most critical pieces that must be in place for fracking to be any kind of success.

BT

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“Fracking wastewater contaminated – likely with radioactive material”

A study in Pennsylvania conducted by Duke was released earlier this week that revealed sediment downstream from wastewater treatment facilities where fracking wastewater had been processed contained radioactive material in 200 times greater concentration than the streambed above the facility. These radioactive contaminants have the chemical signature of the Marcellus Shale. The study has been publicized in numerous media outlets, but here’s the story as it appears in the Christian Science Monitor and from NBC News.

This is not a major surprise. Many geologists have noted that radioactive material lay in these shale beds, and flushing the formations with the fracking fluid would likely bring these contaminants out in solution. I recall a talk from Tony Ingraffea in which he put it: “the fracking process brings to the surface a bunch of stuff we should be happy are locked up and buried down there.”

Now, once again, realize this is not documenting that hydraulic fracturing is contaminating groundwater; no, it is the “produced” water, or wastewater from the fracked well, that is contaminated. Remember the study from University of Texas that concluded there were no links to fracking and water contamination (though the study is actually being redone since it was funded in large part by the inudstry)? Go back to my post from February 16, 2012 and see what I highlighted from that report: it’s the activity associated with fracking – the above ground handling of materials and waste that cause contamination. But fracking cannot be done without without producing waste at the surface.

Personally, I am weary of what elements are bound in our Triassic Basins that would come to the surface when fracked. I understand about the need to extract minerals from the earth for beneficial uses, but what sets fracking apart is the treatment of the flow back and produced water. Our wastewater treatment facilities are not equipped to treat this waste. Add to that something I have said before:  the set up of remote industrial sites that are fracking wells makes full wastewater treatment more difficult.

BT

Looking at the fracking wastewater-for-irrigation proposal

This story about using fracking wastewater for crop irrigation was published a couple weeks ago after the Water and Waste Management Committee of the MEC met. The state has strict guidelines for permitting land application of treated wastewater. In general terms, the quality of wastewater must be the same as the quality of the groundwater at the site where it will be applied. The reality of the situation with fracking wastewater is that it will contain a lot of salt, not to mention whatever dissolved solids. The treating and disposing of this fracking wastewater would be so slow and over a wide enough area that it would be prohibitively expensive. So the idea of using fracking water to irrigate crops will not happen.

Note that staff from the state’s Division of Water Resources stated that he is not concerned about water quantity in the Lee County area needed for fracking. Nonetheless, the Water and Waste Management Committee is pursuing recommendations to really encourage the industry to reuse fracking fluids. That is very encouraging, and will happen with the strength of treatment and disposal costs. One option infamously being proposed in SB 76 is deep injection wells near the coast, which is a bad idea. More on that to come. But for now, don’t worry too much about this possible irrigation of crops.

BT