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Will gas well waste end up in Keuka?

PULTENEY—Concern about a possible  threat to water quality in Keuka Lake drew nearly 80 people to the Pulteney town board meeting Jan. 14.
Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC has outlined a proposal to inject chemical waste water used in the gas drilling process into an unused well in the town. Large amounts of water containing chemicals are used in certain aspects of drilling for gas.
One day before the regular meeting of the town board, information spread about the document, which lists New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as lead agency.
Town supervisor Bill Weber told the audience he had learned a few weeks ago that the DEC was named lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the proposed project and he agreed with the DEC being lead agency. Later in the meeting he said he made the decision, stating, “I said yes. It was kind of a no brainer. I think the board would have said the same thing.”
Weber said there may be a special use permit required for this type of use. However, no action can occur until there is an application for a special use permit submitted to the town planning board. Weber stated, “The town board will have no action or involvement in the process,” adding, “We have no secrets.” If application is made for a special use permit, a public hearing would be required. Weber said, “As information develops we intend to keep it an entirely open process.”
He invited members of the audience to comment. Peter Gamba, a member of the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, said, “It puts the water underground to avoid treatment. The threat to the lake and aquifer is felt to be low, but the risks are unknown.” Gamba posed a number of questions including where the water will come from, its chemical makeup, the need for injection wells, whether there has been infiltration and condition of the casing and grouting of the targeted well. Gamba said a concern was that several interested agencies such as Yates County Soil and Water District and the town of Jerusalem were not notified when DEC was proposed as lead agency.
Another issue raised was the cost of road repairs that could result from heavy truck traffic if the project is approved and how the town would pay for those repairs.
Town of Jerusalem resident Melanie Steinberg asked, “What would be the economic benefit to Pulteney. With the risk of contamination, what would be the incentive to allow it?” Weber replied, “I have no idea. The only thing we have is a single document from the DEC. That’s all we have at this stage.” Steinberg said, “This application has been around a while and under the radar. It adds to the discomfort. The risk to this town is so huge.”
Robert Corcoran said his concern is that the well is within one mile of the lake.  He said, “Would New York City allow it within a mile of their reservoirs?” Another member of the audience asked if the town has $40,000 to $50,000 million to fight it.
Town resident Ken Forenz said, “Everyone has questions. The planning board has no more information than you do. We can go round and round. It’s putting the cart before the horse.” One audience member noted it may not go any farther and that he was sure Pulteney wouldn’t, “Take it on the chin.”
Midway through the comment period, Weber said, “We will keep it clean and open. Trust us. We’re here to do what is right.” Weber said some copies of the complete file will be available for inspection at the town hall Jan. 18. Copies may also be purchased.
Following the meeting, Gamba said he has two issues regarding the water. The first is that science isn’t very good regarding what happens underground, noting the water in the well would be there under pressure. The second issue is that of dilution, noting it isn’t known if dilution will help, and calling the science of both issues is very minimal.

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