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Fracking Rules: Water Supplies and Wastewater Management

Comment on these rules directly to the MEC, at one of the upcoming Public Hearings on Fracking Rules. More info here.

Sanford: Aug. 22, Rockingham Co.: Aug. 25, Cullowhee/Western NC: Sept 12

Wastewater Management
After a well is “fracked,” millions of gallons of water come back to the surface, contaminated with chemicals added to frack fluids, as well as naturally occurring contaminants like salts, radioactive materials, and metals.

Bird in open pit

Birds and other wildlife can be attracted to standing water in open pits of toxic fracking wastewater.

The draft rules allow storage of this toxic wastewater in open pits, which release toxic air pollutants, are prone to flooding, can leak to surface or groundwater, and present a hazard to wildlife! The state should follow the lead of other states that require storage of waste in enclosed tanks, not open pits. The draft rules only require waste to be stored in tanks after a pit fails, leaking to nearby soil and groundwater – an approach that does the opposite of protecting the nearby environment!

What will we do with wastewater once it’s moved off site? Your local wastewater treatment plant is not equipped to handle this soup of chemicals, nor are there specialized facilities here to handle it. We don’t even have water quality standards for the many fracking pollutants that could soon be discharged into NC lakes and streams! The final rules should force driller to identify a disposal facility that is already up and running reliably before any fracking begins. NC’s rivers, streams, farmland and groundwater are too precious to become irreversibly contaminated with fracking wastewater. Click here for a factsheet on the rules on “Exploration and Production Waste Management.”

Water Use

All this fracking water has to come from somewhere. Withdrawing huge volumes of freshwater strains local water supplies. The population of North Carolina’s piedmont between Raleigh and Charlotte is large and increasing more quickly than any other part of the state, yet this is also where most shale gas drilling is likely to occur. We need stricter restrictions on the oil and gas industry to make sure plentiful clean water is available to our growing population for drinking, farming, and many other uses at businesses and homes.

The draft rules would let gas companies withdraw nearly unlimited amounts of freshwater, just requiring them to report where it’s coming from and monitor daily usage. Withdrawals would only be prohibited in extreme dry spells, but by that time others might already be affected! Because fracking operations could have a cumulative effect, the rules should also require records of total water withdrawals at multiple locations across local areas, so communities can plan for the collective impacts on water quantity. Click here for a factsheet on the “Water Acquisition and Management” section of the rules.

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