You are here

Auburn group hopes protest sways city to stop taking wastewater from natural gas drilling


An Auburn group is planning a rally on Thursday to try to convince the city to stop accepting wastewater produced by natural gas drilling companies.
The protest will start at 4 p.m. outside Memorial City Hall, 24 South St., a half-hour before city council convenes inside the building.

“The message we want (to send) is that we want the city to stop taking any natural gas drilling wastewater,’’ said Beth Beer Cuddy, one of the founding members of the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance.

The protest group has found support from the city’s two mayoral candidates. Democratic Mayor Mike Quill and Republican challenger Timothy Lattimore both said they would back such a ban. This past Thursday, Quill asked for council to approve a moratorium within the next couple weeks.

Lattimore and Quill both said the city should know what is in the wastewater before treating it and then discharging it into the Owasco River, whose water eventually empties into Lake Ontario.

Auburn is one of a few municipalities – if not the only one – in New York state to accept natural gas drilling waste. Opponents say the waste from all drilling -- vertical and horizontal -- is laced with high concentrations of salt and cancer-causing agents like petroleum hydrocarbons and radioactive radon.

Also, Cuddy and other opponents say wastewater treatment plants like the one in Auburn are not equipped to treat this type of waste.

"It’s just a huge mistake and should be halted immediately,’’ said Walter Hang, whose Ithaca company Toxics Targeting keeps a database on industrial and municipal pollution. His database is online at

Auburn’s treatment plant handles several million gallons of the natural gas drilling wastewater a year and, according to Quill, makes about $300,000 from treating the waste. City officials will have to decide whether the moneymaking endeavor is worth the price, Quill said.

The treatment plant follows all state and federal environmental regulations in handling the waste, most of which originates from natural gas drilled wells in Cayuga County, said Jeff Sikora, the plant’s chief operator.

Natural gas drilling companies are required to tell the city where the waste comes from and the city has to test the wastewater the first quarter of each year, Sikora said. Companies then must provide certified wastewater test results the rest of the year.

Also, according to Sikora, the treatment plant does not take any wastewater produced from hydrofracking, a vertical drilling method that has drawn national criticism for reportedly causing water contamination, and other public health and environmental problems.

Cuddy’s group still wants a ban put in place as soon as possible.

“In our opinion it doesn’t matter where the waste comes from,’’ Cuddy said. “If it’s natural gas drilling wastewater it’s highly toxic, it’s highly salty and it’s not meant for our plant. Our plant is meant to clean sewage.’’

PDF icon PDF Version of Article106.61 KB