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DEC's Disparate Treatment of Water

DEC's Disparate Treatment of Water

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NYC gets protected. You get sick.
NYC gets protected. You get sick.

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: James "Chip" Northrup on Dec 24, 2011
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12/24/2011

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DEC’s Disparate Treatment of Drinking Water *
The DEC Has Not Taken A “Hard Look” At The Capabilities Of Filtration Plants
The Department’s contention that the New York City and SyracuseWatersheds are deserving of special protection because they lack filtration facilities thatcould safeguard against contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations, for example,must apply with equal force to Otsego County. While Cooperstown and Oneontamaintain water filtration and chlorination facilities, these facilities are not designed toremove industrial wastes with dissolved contaminants or radioactive materials, such asare associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. (See Win McIntyre, Otsego LakeWatershed Manager, dsGEIS Comments, Dec. 20, 2011 (“McIntyre Comments”).
1
As
*Taken from Otsego 2000’s response to the rdSGEIS
1
 http://otsego2000.org/documents/10sep21_OLWSC_CommentsonDraftSGEIS_Oct09.pdf  
 
reported in the 2010 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for the Village of Cooperstown, for example, the filtration plant for water from Otsego Lake uses an up-flow clarifier and a multimedia filter of sand and activated carbon. While these filterscan eliminate sediment from drinking water, they are not designed to, and cannot,eliminate hydraulic fracturing contaminants in liquid form from water. Moreover, even if it were possible to develop filtration facilities adequate to cope with contaminants fromhydraulic fracturing, the DSGEIS fails to take a “hard look” at the costs of suchimprovements. This also stands in sharp contrast to the DSGEIS’s concern about thecosts of a loss of the filtration avoidance determinations (“FAD’s”) in the New York Cityand Syracuse Watersheds.The DSGEIS attempts to rationalize the special treatment of the New York City and Syracuse Watersheds because they do not have filtration facilities, and,consequently, would face immense costs if, as the result of hydraulic fracturingoperations, they were compelled to undertake filtration as the result of a loss of their FAD’s. The DSGEIS, however, fails to rationally analyze or consider whether thesesame concerns apply to other drinking water resources. Without ever squarely addressingthe issue of whether, simply by virtue of having filtration facilities, a water system canhandle contaminants from hydraulic fracturing, the DSGEIS makes a critical distinctionin its treatment of filtered versus unfiltered drinking water:Heightened public health sensitivities are associated withunfiltered surface water systems because the only treatment thatthese drinking waters receive before human consumption is basicdisinfection through such methods as chlorine addition or ultraviolet light irradiation. In unfiltered systems there is noapplication of widely employed treatment measures such aschemical coagulation/flocculation or physical filtration to remove pathogens, sediments, organic matter other contaminants from thedrinking water.(DSGEIS at 6-43; see also DSGEIS Exec. Sum. at 20 (stating that the DSGEIS analysisdoes not apply to New York City and Syracuse Watersheds because they “present uniqueissues that primarily stem from the fact that they are unfiltered water supplies that dependon strict land use and development controls to ensure that water quality is protected”).)The DSGEIS fails specifically to take a “hard look” at whether the filtration facilitiesserving other communities are capable of handling hydraulic fracturing contaminants,and, if not, what their costs might be to develop facilities capable of handling thesecontaminants.The DSGEIS’s failure to assess the actual capabilities of filtrationfacilities is irrational. “[There simply is not an adequate knowledge base to conclude thatfiltering would remove all, or even most, of the hazardous substances found in flow-back 
 
fluids from hydraulic fracturing.” (Letter to the Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo fromRobert Howarth, Ph.D., et al., Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy,dated Sept. 15, 2011 (“Physicians Sept. 15
th
Letter”). As set forth by fifty-nine (59)scientists in a recent letter to the Governor, municipal filtration systems are “not designedwith [the] hazards [of hydraulic fracturing] in mind”:Potential contaminants of concern known to be in some flow-back fluids include benzene and other volatile aromatic hydrocarbons,surfactants and organic biocides, barium and other toxic metals,and soluble radioactive compounds containing thorium, radium,and uranium. Municipal filtration systems were not designed withsuch hazards in mind, and the ability of the filtration systems toremove such hazardous substances has received little, if any, study.(Physicians Sept. 15
th
Letter.) In fact, the scientists who signed the letter believe “thatthe best available science suggests that some of these substances would pass through thetypical municipal filtration system.” (Id.) The DSGEIS’s failure to evaluate thecapacities of existing filtration systems in Otsego County and other areas isfundamentally flawed and irrational.Indeed, the Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee advised theDepartment in its comments on the original DSGEIS that it was “irrelevant whether thewater supply is filtered or unfiltered, the impact on public health of low levels of toxicchemicals will be the same:”The point is that the contaminants in gas drilling wastewater are insolution, and, if in the water supply, cannot be removed byconventional filtration processes used by municipal water treatment facilities. Thus, it’s irrelevant whether the water supplyis filtered or unfiltered, the impact on public health of low levels of toxic chemicals will be the same.(Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee, “Comments on DEC [2009] DraftSupplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS) for Gas Drilling”.)
2
 As the Committee noted, “the typical filtration process for surface waters removes onlyinsoluble particulate matter, and not contaminants in solution.” (Id.; see also McIntyreComments.) “[Since filtration of surface drinking water will not remove the dissolvedcontaminants from gas drilling flowback wastewaters, the impact of contamination will
2
 http://otsego2000.org/documents/v1_NicoleCommentsFinal.pdf  

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