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Auburn reinstates ban on accepting gas drilling wastewater


AUBURN | For the second time in four years, Auburn officials have banned the city's waste water treatment plant from accepting water produced as a byproduct of natural gas drilling.

Members of the Auburn City Council re-instituted the ban during Thursday night's meeting by a 4-1 vote. The results were met with a round of applause from a handful of spectators at Auburn City Hall.

Two people, one from Syracuse and another from Aurora, requested the ban's approval during the public portion of Thursday's meeting. A moratorium was originally instituted in 2011, prohibiting the city from accepting any water produced as a byproduct of gas drilling.

In 2012, officials lifted that ban to a degree, allowing the city's waste water treatment plant to accept water produced from vertical, not horizontal, natural gas drilling wells, according to Corporation Counsel John Rossi.

Thursday's action mirrors the original, complete ban effective immediately.

Councilor Terry Cuddy — who has been among the advocates for the original moratorium for several years — said Thursday's action may "close the chapter on an unfortunate part of our waste water treatment policy."

He referenced a in-depth analysis completed in March 2014 after a yearlong study by engineering agency GHD Consulting Firm, Inc. The analysis was required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation after the ban was uplifted in 2012.

GHD determined the plant should not accept the waste water because the resulting chloride levels would disrupt the plant's biological treatment process.

"This was (Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance)'s assertion from day one," Cuddy said, referencing an organization he is a member of.

Councilor Peter Ruzicka stood as the lone member of council opposed to Thursday's resolution, stating the byproduct in question is not from hydraulic fracturing waste water, but water brought up in natural gas production. The councilor voted to lift the ban in 2012.

Ruzicka asserted that the increased detected chloride levels are caused by sodium chloride, or common salt, that he said does not impact the waste water plant's nitrification process as heavily as other, more toxic constituents.

Following Thursday's meeting, Ruzicka said the moratorium itself is pointless because additional studies would be needed beforehand, which the city, he feels, cannot rightfully afford.

"This resolution, I feel, is a waste of time," he started before casting his vote. The councilor attempted to continue, but was cut off by his fellow councilors since he called for an immediate vote.