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Towns weigh-in with concerns about waste

DUNDEE—During the past few weeks, the possibility of a huge volume of wastewater from the gas drilling process being transported to this area has resulted in discussions at nearly every municipal meeting in the area. At the Starkey town board meeting Feb. 4, town resident Bob Schiesser spoke to the board. Schiesser is a member of the Starkey planning board and the Seneca Lake Pure Waters group. The core of recent discussions has been Chesapeake Atlantic’s proposal to deposit wastewater in an old gas well at a site a mile above Keuka Lake in the town of Pulteney.
He stated the oil companies are exempted from fault or responsibility for chemicals that could contaminate the land or water. He said he would like the town planning board and town board to work together if any regulations are being considered.
Starkey supervisor Richard Burcaw said Yates County has a group working with county planner Shawna Bonshak and Cornell Cooperative Extension to review the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) report on the proposal. Burcaw said, “The only control we would have is the roads. Yates County wants to come up with a uniform road survey plan and also require a bond or performance letter of credit.” While roads are a concern, he said Cooperative Extension is concerned about the impact the related activity would have on agriculture. He said Yates County is on the tail end of Marcellus Shale, adding a dedicated fluid processing plant is needed. Burcaw said if the wastewater was properly treated it could be rereleased, either at this site or returned to the original drilling site to be used again.
Schiesser spoke about a project in Texas where an environmental group that was sponsoring gas drilling withdrew its support to the gas industry due to the amount of pollution related to the process, which becomes as dirty as coal. Air pollution is also an issue. Councilman Fred Shoemaker said, “Do you see what the real problem is here? We’re a town. We have home rule and the only thing we can rule on is the roads. We can’t rule on anything meaningful. Potable drinking water is more valuable than the gas. Why can’t we protect our own?
Councilman Bill Holgate said, “There is a lot of information out there. It’s all a learning curve. That well has what DEC and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) want. It’s just in the wrong location. Our county has a task force. Will be comparing notes with other counties. I don’t know the solutions but we have a good jump on what’s happening. We’re going to have to make sure we use everything at our disposal.”
Schiesser said, “It’s so close to the lake. New York City battled them because they wanted to protect their drinking water.”
Holgate said, “The most alarming portion is how our local DEC and EPA went around addressing those involved. If it wasn’t for private citizens, Jerusalem and Yates County wouldn’t even have been informed.” The usual practice is to inform any “interested agencies” of who has been proposed as lead agency. This was not done.
At a meeting Jan. 13 in the town of Pulteney, the audience was told that only the town planning board could issue a special use permit for the proposed use of the old well and that to that date no application for a special use permit had been made.

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