DRBC’s new rule would protect against frack-waste contamination, officials say

Current and former officials at the Delaware River Basin Commission say proposed new rules on the in-basin treatment of waste water from fracking strengthen protections against any frack-related contamination.
The rule, published on Nov. 30, would allow the importation and treatment of waste water from fracking operations outside the basin – under strict conditions — even though the rule proposes banning fracking itself.
“The possibility that waste water from hydraulic fracturing could be imported exists now,” Rupert said.
The effect in our opinion would be to provide numerous protections and requirements that do not presently exist.” Among the proposed new protections is a requirement that waste water operators would need DRBC approval to bring in any amount of frack waste for treatment, a stricter requirement than the current rule requiring commission approval for 50,000 gallons or more, Rupert said.
Any applicants would be subject to effluent limits and a public hearing, and would be required to submit a “treatability study” which identified pollutants of concern, analyzed the toxicity of the waste, and examined the technologies that would be used for treatment.
But Tracy Carluccio of the environmental group Delaware Riverkeeper Network said allowing treatment of frack waste would expose the basin’s waters to contamination, and is inconsistent with the proposed ban on fracking itself which the commission said would expose waters to “significant, immediate, and long-term risks.” “For the DRBC to consider importing frack waste water is so illogical, based on their proposal to ban fracking in the watershed,” Carluccio said.
“The folks out there saying it’s weakening the rules and that there’s a ban in place now are wrong.” Other safeguards exist within the new rule’s proposals on the Delaware River’s “special protection waters,” the non-tidal section of the river above Trenton, where the DRBC requires no measurable change in existing water-quality standards, Collier said.
“There are not high levels of those contaminants in the non-tidal river so that limit is going to be very very low or non-detectable, and it says you can’t go above it,” she said.
“Why would you think water would be contaminated?
“They were never allowed to frack a well here to find out whether the gas is producible or not,” Rutledge said.

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