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Landmark Auburn, NY Gas Extraction Wastewater Dumping Ban Victory/Help Ian Urbina Beef Up His Twitter following


I am thrilled to be able to report a landmark victory in Auburn, NY with important nationwide implications for shale fracking. After a bruising three-year battle, a local citizen campaign strongly assisted by our efforts succeeded in preserving an unprecedented ban on gas extraction wastewater dumping at their local municipal treatment plant.

Congrats to Terry Cuddy, Beth Beer Cuddy, all members of the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance, Mayor Quill and the Auburn City Councilors who fought so long and hard for this epic victory. Their efforts should be highly commended.

Many thanks also to Ian Urbina who broke the dumping story in his historic Drilling Down series in The New York Times. Please help Ian beef up his Twitter following. I implore you to forward his Twitter feed to everyone you know and follow his great work: @ian_urbina

The Achilles' Heel of Gas Extraction

Conventional and shale gas production wells both generate huge quantities of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals, petroleum constituents, radionuclides and extraordinarily high levels of chlorides and other dissolved solids. Properly disposing of that polluted wastewater is the Achilles' Heel of gas extraction.

We documented that more than 20 million gallons of conventional gas extraction wastewater was dumped into treatment plants across Upstate New York in recent years, including Auburn, Cayuga Heights, Canandaigua, Sherburne and Watertown.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permitted this practice for decades even though many pollutants in gas extraction wastewater are neither removed nor broken down by sewage treatment systems.

Halting Gas Extraction Wastewater Dumping in Auburn, NY

The Auburn plant received more than 16 million gallons of gas extraction wastewater in 2009-2010. After Ian Urbina's reporting in The NYT sparked a local citizen campaign, the City Council adopted a nationally unprecedented gas extraction wastewater dumping ban in July 2011.

The ban was rescinded, however, in March 2012 when majority control of the City Council shifted from Democrats to Republicans.

Before gas extraction wastewater dumping could resume, however, we succeeded in persuading the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to require a "headworks analysis" to determine whether the Auburn plant could actually treat gas extraction wastewater pollutants.

At the end of March, Auburn's engineering consultant's report determined that: "The headworks analyses performed herein indicate that the Auburn WPCP [Water Pollution Control Plant, not in the original] does not have the additional capacity for the acceptance of hauled VGWW [Vertical Natural Gas Well Wastewater, not in the original] due to excess chloride loading to the plant (emphasis added)."

This critically important study will maintain the Auburn dumping ban and make it exceedingly difficult for municipal treatment plants anywhere in New York to accept gas extraction wastewater. We have now systematically blocked gas extraction wastewater dumping in every municipal treatment plant in New York that earlier accepted it.

Thank you, Virginia Wong, EPA Region 2 pretreatment coordinator, and Judith Enck, Region 2 Administrator, for requiring that "headworks analysis."


In conclusion, the Auburn campaign is an extremely important achievement.

First, the victory received terrific media coverage. See below.

Second, the "headworks analysis" reveals that Auburn never should have accepted even one drop of gas extraction wastewater. That begs the question why DEC permitted 20 million gallons of gas extraction wastewaters to be dumped into local treatment plants without adequate study or regulatory controls.

I wrote to request that Governor Cuomo investigate this concern and publicly report his findings: 4-22-14 Letter to Governor Cuomo Requesting Immediate Action Due to Auburn Headworks Analysis of Natural Gas Drilling Wastewater Hazards

Third, by halting gas extraction wastewater dumping into municipal treatment plants, the economics of shale fracking are being fundamentally altered. This decision will impose additional cost burdens on New York gas firms that had to find disposal alternatives. If the EPA Region 2 "headworks analysis" decision can be replicated in other states, the effect could become nationwide.

Finally, this victory again demonstrates how innovative data research, sophisticated public policy advocacy, intense media coverage and coordinated grassroots organizing allows citizens to take effective action to protect their communities.

Against that background, our goal is to ban all forms of improper gas extraction wastewater dumping, including: deep-well injection and landspreading on roads for dust control, de-icing as well as roadbed stabilization. My recent State Senate testimony on that matter is presented below.

As you will soon see, our experiences in New York are critically important to protect our state and the nation as a whole.

Thanks so much for all your help. Keep slugging.

Best regards,


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