A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.
Just when we thought craft beer couldn’t get any zanier, we learn that Oregonians want to make it with treated wastewater.
Clean Water Services of Hillsboro says it has an advanced treatment process that can turn sewage into drinking water. The company, which runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland metro area, wants to show off its “high-purity” system by turning recycled wastewater into beer.
Clean Water Services has asked the state for permission to give its water to a group of home brewers. The Oregon Brew Crew would make small batches of beer to be served at events – not sold at a brewery.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a draft version of its report on whether fracking contaminates drinking water this week. I chatted with NRDC geologist Briana Mordick to find out more about the report’s findings.
PI: Why was the EPA looking into the relationship between fracking and drinking-water contamination?
BM: All around the country in places where fracking is booming, like Pennsylvania, Colorado, and North Dakota, people have reported concerns about their drinking water, but investigations have been few and far between. So, five years ago, Congress asked the EPA to study the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water. In response, the agency developed a first-of-it-kind research plan to examine this question, the draft results of which were finally released late last week.
Photo cred: Sarah Craig, Faces of Fracking
PI: What did they find?
BM: Fracking can, and has, contaminated drinking water—that’s a landmark conclusion. For years, the oil and gas industry has been claiming that there are no documented cases of fracking affecting drinking water. Hopefully this study finally puts an end to the use of that really unhelpful and misleading talking point.
PI: So why is the media reporting that the EPA found fracking *doesn’t* contaminate drinking water?
BM: In its high level summary, the EPA says that it did not find evidence that impacts to drinking water from fracking were widespread or systematic. So what’s going on? Well, the key word is “evidence.” Not finding evidence of impacts is not the same thing as not finding impacts. The reality is, the EPA doesn’t know how widespread or frequent the impacts are.
Why were some groups worried about the integrity of this report?
BM: In 2004, the EPA released a much narrower report, looking just at the potential impacts to drinking water from fracking in coal bed methane formations. Not long after it came out, a whistle-blower came forward and said the report, which basically declared fracking safe, had been heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry. Consequently, those findings have largely been dismissed. So I think people are worried that history will repeat itself.
PI: What happens next?
BM: This is a draft. The final report will be released following public comment and peer-review by the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, a group of outside scientists who help ensure that the agency’s research adheres to the highest scientific standards. Beyond that, the EPA isn’t just a research organization—it’s the regulatory body responsible for protecting our environment, so it should use that authority to address the risks it found to our drinking water from fracking.
Learn more from Briana about this issue on her blog, and check her out on Twitter, @secondstarlight
According to The Plain Dealer, Michael Guesman, an employee of Hardrock Excavating—a company that stored, treated and disposed of oil and gas drilling waste—appeared in U.S. District Court yesterday admitting that he dumped tens of thousands of gallons of fracking waste into a tributary of the Mahoning River on at least 24 separate occasions …
Wastewater Pumping Station, Porto Alegre, Brazil | MooMAA
An urbanism project, usually with poor visibility and maximum importance, the channeling and wastewater treatment system of the Integrated Socio-Environmental Program – PISA, of the Municipality of Porto Alegre – PMPA, running for more than 30 years, with wastewater treatment actions in the Guaiba estuary basin, with the participation of 40% of the territory of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in addition to the obvious environmental and health benefits, returns the accessibility to the river in the capital in the short-term, with an expressive social impact.
Would you drink reused sewage water that had been declared safe? No? You’re not alone. Engineers say processing wastewater to make it clean and drinkable can provide a plentiful source for places where water is in short supply. But the public often balks at the thought. The reason, experts say, is a phenomenon called psychological contagion.
A week after the dumping of at least 20,000 gallons of toxic and potentially radioactive fracking waste into a storm drain that empties into a tributary of the Mahoning River in Youngstown, Ohio, by Hard Rock Excavating, state regulators have yet to disclose information about the quantity of waste and the chemicals involved.
The quality of water is a worldwide concern. Now more than ever, competent and responsible management of water resources, and especially wastewater treatment, is needed to reduce the impact of human activities on the environment and to ensure that future generations have a safe and plentiful water supply.
The EU-funded project BRITER-WATER, subtitled Market replication of bamboo remediation of food industry effluent gray water for re-use, looked at developing and demonstrating an innovative wastewater treatment system using bamboo.
All the cluster earthquakes that have happened in Texas since 2009 have been in areas with big fracking operations. A while back, we talked to NRDC’s petroleum geologist (and fracking expert) Briana Mordick, who helped clarify some questions about similar upticks in earthquakes in Oklahoma, where, like in Texas, they haven’t had earthquakes historically. The USGS has confirmed that fracking is “most likely” the cause.
Shit flows downstream, as they say, and while we may be fine with ours piling up in our waterways, it isn’t really fair for us to make that decision for others down the river.
I once had the privilege of speaking
to a young man of Taos, a stunning pueblo village that had existed in
what eventually came to be called New Mexico for over 1,300 years. It
was the oldest continually-inhabited town in North America, and for over
a millennium, its First Nations inhabitants had used the tiny creek
running through it for everything: water to drink, to cook, to bathe and
swim and play.
And ten years ago, they stopped. Americans upstream had
started dumping pollutants into it: the chemicals of waste treatment
plants, the raw sewage of towns who couldn’t afford to treat their
waste. Everything we flush goes somewhere, and affects something, and so
in the quest for a safe, sustainable toilet, it’s probably best we
don’t flush at all. Water’s a terrible thing to waste—especially when
we’re wasting it for our waste.
Reclaimed Wastewater for Drinking: Safe but Still a Tough Sell
Water filtration technology has advanced to the point where wastewater can be rendered safe for drinking, according to a new report, but legislative and psychological hurdles will need to be overcome before widespread adoption can happen.
A good rainfall is vital for plants, trees and grass. But rain falling on roofs, concrete and roads poses a problem for the environment. This is because the runoff can carry pollutants directly into lakes, streams and rivers.
One solution to reduce this stormwater runoff is what is known as a green roof–a roof covered in living, growing plants. Architect Elizabeth Grant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. is testing how effective the roofs are at controlling urban runoff.
“Instead of having a plain roof that just has water coursing off of it all the time, you put the plants on there to hold the water for a period of time to slow down the flow of water off of it,” said Grant.
The fallout from the ongoing review of California’s deeply flawed Underground Injection Control program continues as new documents reveal that state regulators are
investigating more than 500 injection wells for potentially dumping oil
industry wastewater into aquifers protected under the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act as well as state law.