A local waste disposal firm may be transporting toxic fracking wastewater through the LaSalle section of the city of Niagara Falls in direct and flagrant violation of a 2012 city ordinance prohibiting the activity.
According to waste facility reports available at www.marcellusgas.org, an industry web site, Allied Waste Systems, LLC, located at 5600 Niagara Falls Blvd in the city, has landfilled over 913,000 barrels of fracking wastewater imported from Pennsylvania drilling rigs and 90 tons of solid drill cutting waste since the Niagara Falls City Council banned importation of the materials on March 6, 2012.
Passed unanimously, and sponsored by councilman Glenn Choolokian, the city's anti fracking ordinance prohibits the "storage, transfer, treatment or disposal of natural gas exploration and production wastes" within city limits. While the Niagara Falls Water Board eventually complied with the decision and has, for the time being, ceased efforts to cash in on fracking, it appears Allied Waste, a subsidiary of Republic Services, Inc. of Phoenix, AZ, has other ideas.
Reports show that Allied has been accepting frack wastewater since July, 2010, burying over 55 million gallons of the hazardous fracking wastewater here in an area circumscribed by Niagara Falls Blvd., Packard Road and the 190, mere yards from the Niagara Fall High School and the busy Fashion Outlet Mall on Military Road.
Fracking wastewater routinely contains upwards of 700 chemical additives, 30 of which are known carcinogens, and radioactive compounds from deep shale rock layers.
Three months ago, the Cuomo administration outlawed the drilling process of fracking in New York State, largely due to the deleterious health impacts of fracking wastewater.
Absent a local ordinance prohibiting it - such as the one the Niagara Falls Council passed, it is not illegal to accept fracking waste at permitted landfills in New York.
The only sustainable option for disposal of the wastewater has been to pump it underground at "injection wells" located at scattered sites in Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma. An expensive process, given that the wastewater must be transported by tanker truck sometimes hundreds of miles from gas well to disposal site, and problematic, since the regions hosting the injection wells have been subject to greatly increased seismic activity causing widespread infrastructure damage.
It therefore follows that the natural gas drilling industry would be motivated to capitalize on economically-depressed municipalities like Niagara Falls which, along with only a few other communities elsewhere in the state, has been accepting the toxic frack waste for years.
While the actual 135-acre Allied Waste landfill is completely contained within the Town of Niagara, one of two truck entrances is located on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the city of Niagara Falls. In addition, the only rail access to the facility, terminating at three spurs on the property, is through the city.
Therefore, the prohibition on "transfer" of the waste within the city of Niagara Falls is clearly being violated by rail, and possibly by truck, if any use the Niagara Falls Boulevard entrance or drive on the 190 through LaSalle to access the Packard Road entrance. And sorry, but it's hard to believe dozens of large semis loaded with frack wastewater are driving past Wegmans and Olive Garden on a daily basis to access the Packard Road entrance to avoid having to drive through the city.
Interestingly, the 2005 DEC Solid Waste Permit issued to Allied allows the facility to accept "contaminated soils and sludges" while not specifically authorizing gas drilling or frack waste. Interesting, because these state permits are exhaustive in their specificity. If a particular brand of waste isn't expressly listed, it isn't supposed to be accepted by the facility. Allied's permit also states, "No drummed waste shall be place in the landfill without prior written approval from the RMSE (DEC Engineer)." Did Allied get written approval back in 2010 to landfill nearly a million barrels of frack waste? We intend to find out.
In fact, a very recent, January, 2015 DEC listing of issued permits reveals that exactly eight landfills statewide are authorized to accept and dispose of "Petroleum Contaminated Soil". Allied Waste is not one of them.
Leaked documents describing an incident that occurred in August, 2012, three months after the city ban was passed, constitute a "smoking gun". Two of three rail cars containing "drilling solids" triggered a radiation alarm at Allied Waste as the contents were being off-loaded onto dump trucks. The material, which was being transported on CSX rails by contractor Diaz Disposal of Kingsley, PA for Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation and consisted mostly of soils, was immediately returned to the rail cars. Samples were taken under the supervision of the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and sent to URS Corporation in Pittsburgh, which determined, reassuringly, that "even the highest measured activity concentration is below the applicable exempt activity concentration..."
When asked for comment on what amounts to the next Love Canal taking place before our eyes, Mayor Dyster replied by email as follows: "Jim - Do you have information suggesting a potential violation of local law that you want to report? If yes, please provide to our law office (copied above) so we can act appropriately."