Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 11, 2013

Amid debate, Falls Water Board used lobbyist to explore fracking in Albany


Niagara Gazette — "We're neither for nor against fracking, but if it happens we wanted to investigate what does mean to the waste industry as a whole," Drof said.

If the practice of hydraulic fracturing or the treatment of the wastewater were to be allowed in New York state the utility would need to know whether the facility was capable of treating the fluids and what would need to be done — and at what cost — to be able to safely handle the waste, Drof said.

"Until we know what the treatment goals are, we can't really predict that right now," he added.

The utility treats about half the amount of water that it did when running at capacity, is dealing with constant infrastructure repairs and upgrade needs and has to cope with rising legacy costs from retired workers' pensions, water board officials maintain. This year the utility will reach the end of a 20-year agreement with Occidental Chemical that brought the utility $64.5 million over that period. With the key revenue source drying up, the board will have to make up a $1.3 million gap in the budget.

Drof said the utility needs to explore any possible revenue sources to try to offset the many fiscal challenges it is facing.

Drof said he understands the public's hesitation in accepting fracking waste, especially considering the community's history of environmental issues. But, he noted, the utility would be subject to stringent regulations and monitoring from the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should it ever get into the frack water treatment business. 

"We just can't unilaterally decide to accept something," he said.

And the plant already accepts a variety of chemical waste products for treatment, he added.

Wastewater from hydrofracking would be subject to the same scrutiny from government agencies as other waste already being hauled to the facility.

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