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Wastewater meeting draws overflow crowd in opposition

PULTENEY—Close to 500 people gathered at the Pulteney Fire Department to hear from a panel on the proposal to inject drilling wastewater into a Pulteney well, Sunday, Feb. 7.
The panelists included Congressman Eric Massa, Professor Tony Ingraffea, Attorney Rachel Treichler, author Steve Coffman, winery owner Art Hunt, and toxicologist Walter Hang.  The event was organized by Jeff and Jodi Andrysick.
Massa was the first speaker of the afternoon.  He said the application process of injecting wastewater into the well should be slowed down.  Massa said that few regions have access to pure ground water like the Finger Lakes does, and that should not be damaged.  He added, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to to fix anything that goes wrong.
Massa said injecting the water into a well like this is a "clear and present danger."  He explained the water Chesapeake Energy wants to put into the well is laced with carcinogens.
However, Massa also said nothing was going to happen right away now.  The application process is currently stalled.  Massa did warn residents not to become complacent.
Ingraffea, Cornell University professor, spoke next about what the permit application process entails.  He said that from an engineer's standpoint, nothing is ever certain.  He said there are three permits to complete before allowing wastewater to be injected into a well like this; from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Conservation, and the town of Pulteney.
He added this type of well is a Class 2, because the water Chesapeake wants to dump is something "other than brine."  Ingraffea said there are currently 144,000 Class 2 wells in the U.S., but this would be the first one in New York.
"The idea is to put down (the well), what's already down there," he said.
Ingraffea explained under the federal rules, the well has to be designed to contain the wastewater "forever."  He added then, would the gas company be around to maintain upkeep of the well?   Ingraffea said the proposal is put inject wastewater into the well for 10 years.
"Will the gas company be here in 11 years?" he asked.
In addition, he explained to inject the water into the well, Chesapeake will need to invest in onsite requirements.  Ingraffea said that would include power, tanks, valving, security, and staffing.
One of Ingraffea's final comments was that there are federal regulations regarding gas drilling and transportation because something has gone wrong.  He told people not to believe a gas company when it says it has never had an issue or accident.
Hang, toxicologist and president of Toxics Targeting, gave examples of times when there has been accidents or gas leaks dealing with drilling and transportation.  He talked about how an accident can cause fires, explosions, homes being evacuated, and wells being polluted.
He said that what people need to do is act now to protest the proposed dumping.  Hang said residents can start by simply asking Chesapeake to pull out now, even if it will not work the first time.  He added the town can try to become the lead agency of the environmental impact statement.  He also said residents can start a not-for-profit group to fundraise to pay for ads and possibly an attorney.
"It's only a matter of time and it's only a matter of how big the problems are," said Hang.
Treichler, attorney and environmentalist, was the last speaker.  She said a similar well proposal happened in VanEtten.  She said that fell through because a six month study of the well showed it would not work.
Treichler also went over the time line of Chesapeake's application.  She added that she did not think the supervisor had the authority alone to let the DEC become lead agency in the environmental impact statement, Dec. 22, 2009.
Richard Young, geology professor from SUNY Geneseo, spoke about how faults and bedding planes worked.  He explained joints allow liquids in the earth to surpass underground barriers.
Hunt, owner of Hunt Country Vineyards, was asked to speak about what the area's wineries thought about the proposed wastewater dumping.  He said while he hadn't spoken to all of the wineries, he said the consensus was it is a problem.
Hunt also said the practice of signing gas leases in the area is quite common.  He added he has done it.  However, Hunt explained the leases have changed.
Paul Wilson, Heron Hill Winery manager, also spoke.  He said called wanting to put the wastewater into the well a "1950s mentality."  He added, "I can't believe we have to assemble to discuss this."
At the Jan. 14 Pulteney town board meeting, residents heard about the Chesapeake Appalachia’s proposed plan to dump drilling wastewater into an unused Pulteney well.  Treichler said two petitions in opposition started a week after the town board meeting, created by Jeff and Jody Andrysick. One is for Pulteney residents asking for a moratorium on permits allowing deep disposal dumping within the town. The second is for Keuka Lake residents/taxpayers who are opposed to the well dumping. For more information on the petitions, call the Andrysicks at 607-868-7889.
Treichler added the Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association has sent letters to Pulteney, urging them not to allow this. A Facebook group has also appeared, opposing the dumping. “Citizens Against Wastewater Disposal Well within ONE MILE of Keuka Lake” had just over 1,400 members Monday, Feb. 1, afternoon. The group asks members to contact the Department of Environmental Conservation and tell the state not to allow this.
 


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