August 19, 2018

Toxic Frac Brine

Toxic frac brine is being spread on dirt roads in Farmington Township, PA

“Brine” … sounds like it is not much to be worried about, but is it?
An introduction to the subject by B. Arrindell, Director, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

Natural gas (and oil) drilling brings a combined fluid and gaseous mixture to the surface. When hydraulic fracturing is used there are chemicals introduced into the well to facilitate the removal of the gas or oil. Please understand that you not only have to be concerned about what is introduced by the fracturing process – there is much to be concerned about when you look at the naturally occurring materials that are released from the formation layers – the geological layers that the gas/oil is sourced FROM. These released materials can do considerable harm – even without considering the 20 tons of chemicals added in the hydraulic fracturing per each million gallons of water pumped down the wellbore. This released mixture is very salty, 20 to hundreds of times saltier than the oceans, but is not just sodium chloride salt, it is a complex concentrated mixture of all the trace elements from the ancient seabed that is the shale layer – including heavy metals and radioactive elements. The Marcellus shale layer, after all, is located by radioactive markers.

And as for gasses, with the desired methane are also the BETX gasses – benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and the xylenes, and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds – organic means that it has a benzene ring in the compound), and light condensates (light oils). These gasses are also dissolved in the ‘brine’ and move with this liquid drilling waste. In Texas the Barnett shale (and in other shale fields also) there is hydrogen sulfide, and other poisonous gasses that are a part of the released materials that is the gas “ore” – it is not just methane – it is a mixture AND it is not known how much or where hydrogen sulfide will be released. Hydrogen Sulfide is also produced by bacteria in the brine when these liquids reach the surface.

In connecting the layers with gas /oil wells there is a deadly mixing that can happen that puts material from formation layers – naturally occurring materials and the introduced materials – into the aquifers where drinking water is obtained. The ‘brine’ that returns to the surface is considered a potential source of local pollution and has caused regional events like the death of Dunkard Creek (38 miles and 161 species), several ‘bottled water alerts’ in western PA—warnings to not drink tap water – sourced from the Monongahella River that affected over 300 thousand people including the city of Pittsburgh.

This liquid gas/oil field waste is not regulated as the toxic material it is because it is part of the oil and gas (and coal) wastes exempted from regulation when they were declared ‘special’ in the early 1980’s. However there are strong tools! Municipalities in PA and NY do not have to allow “brine” spreading, so make sure your area is well informed. If you are in NY, the NY AG’s office has an Environmental Crimes section – tell them what is going on! In PA, the PA Environmental Amendment and the PA Clean Streams Law are useful. Also, the federal Clean Water Act is usable to go after environmental crimes.

Legal Action by DCS

Below are our amicus and our intervention in the case brought by Siri Lawson to stop “brine” (frack waste) spreading on roads in Farmington Township, PA. Note that these are public documents and, although we were not permitted to intervene and our amicus (which we were invited to submit!) was not ‘accepted’, we know that the judge read both carefully and thoroughly because he quoted us in his refusals.

Links to Articles on Toxic Frac Brine

Articles on Toxic Frac Brine and Toxic Frac Brine Spreading

  • Comments On Brine Spreading.pdf – Harvard Law School and Earthjustice comments to PA Bureau of Waste Management on proposed modifications to regulations governing the use of toxic frac brines on public roadways. In conclusion, the use of toxic frac brines for dust suppression and road stabilization would result in a substantial risk of harm to public health and the environment.
  • Farmington Town Brine Flyer.pdf – Farmington (PA) township residents oppose toxic frac brine spreading on dirt roads.
  • Illegal Toxic Wastewater Dumping in PA.pdf – Illegal dumping of toxic frac brine and other wastewater into the streams and onto the roads of PA has been going on for years with few consequences to the dumpers.
  • License to Dump.pdf – PA is being allowed to dump radioactive frack waste in NY State. Environmental Advocates of NY makes the case against allowing this to continue.
  • Toxic Frac Brine Brief.pdf – Brief description of toxic contaminants in fracking wastewater “brine”.

Related Articles on Fracking

  • Gail Conner Letter to Gov Corbett.pdf – Volunteer questions her removal from PA DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) in light of key environmental issues facing PA, including toxic frac brine spreading on public roadways.
  • Greenwood Lawsuit.pdf – Civil lawsuit against 2 gas industry companies for damages caused by natural gas activities (fracking) on nearby properties.
  • Ken Dufalla Discusses Fracking.pdf – Ken Dufalla educates an oil company executive on the dangers of fracking.
  • PA DEP fines in Amwell.pdf – PA DEP fines oil and gas companies for 17 violations of state environmental regulations.
  • Radioactive Ten Mile Creek in PAVideo: Ken Dufalla of the Izaak Walton League in Greene County presents the alarming water test results from the PA DEP on Ten Mile Creek.

PA DEP Forms