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Residents protest Auburn treating gas drilling wastewater


Cayuga County residents rally to stop what they think is a controversial practice by the City of Auburn. Right now, the city accepts and treats wastewater from gas drilling operations, the treated water is then released into the Owasco River. As our Katie Gibas reports, protestors say they're concerned about what effects the byproduct will have on their watersheds.

AUBURN, N.Y. -- Central New York residents have a dream.

"I want my kids to grow up in a healthy environment and that my grandchildren or anyone else who wants to live in the state of New York can look forward to a prosperous future that's based on clean water and stable and productive farmland," said Walt Aikman from the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance.

But Aikman says there's something standing in the way of that dream: Gas drilling. That's why he's joined by a group of people protesting the City of Auburn accepting and treating natural gas drilling wastewater in their sewage facilities.

"There's not enough information to make the determination yet that this is a safe practice. And there's not enough documentation to back up what they're bringing in," said Doug Ward from the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance.

Walter Hang, the Toxic Targeting Services President, added, "It's only designed to handle human waste. The gas drilling wastewater has very high levels of water called total dissolved solids. It's very salty. It's also got a lot of petroleum hydrocarbons that are toxic and radionuclides."

Even though the city has a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation and supervision from the Environmental Protection Agency and none of the water is from the controversial horizontal hydrofracking, officials seem to agree with those rallying. And now, they're trying to figure out how to terminate the contract with the wastewater company. But terminating the contract would come at a cost of about $200,000 to $300,000 per year.

"Our residents' safety is more important. We'll have to work through the budget issues as the time comes along and we'll have to adapt for that. But safety is the prime concern," said Michael Quill, the Auburn Mayor.

City officials hope to be able to implement a moratorium on accepting gas drilling wasterwater within the next few months.

City officials voted to write a letter to the governor and state legislators saying that should hydrofracking come to New York State, they want it banned near Owasco Lake.

New York is currently under an executive order outlawing high volume fracking until July.