Letter: Norwalk River Watershed Association supports fracking waste ban

To the Editor:

The Norwalk River Watershed Association supports the passing of the ordinance to ban waste from oil and gas extraction, including fracking waste, that will be voted on by Ridgefield residents on Jan. 9. The current temporary moratorium on fracking waste in Connecticut has loopholes that potentially allow this waste to enter the state, and it includes a requirement that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) begin writing regulations for the importing of this waste. Ridgefield and our watershed are not currently protected from the future importing of fracking waste as a result.

Ridgefield citizens who vote to pass the ordinance put forth will be voting to join the 53 CT towns that have passed ordinances with this same language — most recently Greenwich and Newtown. Westport passed this ordinance out of committee, and it will be before their town government in January. Weston’s Board of Selectmen will also vote on this ordinance in January. The language in this ordinance was first passed by seven county legislatures in New York state. These seven county laws now protect over 200 New York cities, towns, and incorporated villages.

Without this ordinance, one way this waste could enter our environment is through “beneficial use determination (BUD)” contracts. These allow contractors to mix waste into paving projects and “similar construction” or to use de-icing products made from oil and gas well brine. (The current temporary state ban is incomplete as it only bans brine from gas wells that are fracked. But brine from oil wells and conventional wells that are not fracked is not currently banned by the state of CT.)

Pennsylvania learned the hard way the risks of allowing BUD contracts. The state has now rescinded past policy that allowed permits to use waste in road building and construction projects. Construction materials that include this waste were found to be inferior. One contractor wanted to build a factory on a remediated brownfield, and after bringing in tens of thousands of tons of fill mixed with waste found it wouldn’t support the building he wanted to construct. Pa. also stopped allowing towns to spread brine for dust control this past summer after Penn State University researchers found the brine 14 towns had been using was contaminated with radioactive radium and lead. Tests proved that this brine was highly contaminated, left toxic residue on roads, and was also capable of running off into streams and rivers.

Brine used for de-icing in Ohio was also found to be radioactive after testing by the state last year. Permits had been allowed for about 10 years. The product, called Aqua Salina, was produced by a company that also drilled wells. 

We want to keep products like Aqua Salina out of the Norwalk River Watershed and out of Connecticut. Norwalk passed an ordinance with the same language as the one Ridgefield will be voting on in order to help protect the $30 million shellfish industry and Norwalk Harbor from potential contamination of waterways by this waste. We at NRWA encourage Ridgefield residents to please come vote on Jan. 9 to join our neighboring towns in passing this ordinance to protect our waterways and Long Island Sound from toxic, radioactive waste.

Louise Washer

Norwalk River Watershed Association