Philadelphia Weekly Press
The snow was beautiful, so beautiful. The salt dumped on sidewalks and roads to de-ice it was dangerous, so dangerous. "Chloride concentrations are increasing at a rate that threatens the availability of fresh water in the northeastern U.S.," according to Dr. Sujay Kaushel, who will speak at an event open to the public at the Philadelphia Water Department, 1101 Market Street, 5th Floor, on Thursday, January 21st. His lunchtime presentation is at 12 noon this Thursday; doors open at 11:30 AM.
This extraordinary salinization of fresh rivers and streams coincides with the ongoing drilling of the Marcellus Shale for natural gas. Marcellus Shale wastewater comes up from deep underground full of toxic contaminants ranging from arsenic and benzene to 2-butoxyethanol, methanol, and radium 226. It is also three to six times saltier than the ocean. Although Pennsylvania has no plan to treat this wastewater safely, drilling permits are being fast-tracked by the Department of Environmental Protection, which benefits from permit fees. It is currently legal to use Marcellus Shale waste brines to de-ice roads in Pennsylvania, according to the watchdog environmental group Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.
Dr. Kaushel reports, "Increases in roadways and deicer use are now salinizing fresh waters, degrading habitat for aquatic organisms, and impacting large supplies of drinking water for humans throughout the region." Dr. Sujay Kaushal is a scientist with Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (no relation to the multinational energy corporation, Chesapeake Energy).
"Our analysis shows that if salinity were to continue to increase at its present rate due to changes in impervious surface coverage and current management practices, many surface waters in the northeastern U.S. would not be potable for human consumption and would be toxic to freshwater life within the next century," concludes an online summary of the Laboratory’s findings. At the Thursday, January 21 event at the Philadelphia Water Department, Dr. Kaushel will also discuss new results "regarding the effects of increasing climate variability/change on road salt dynamics, and the effects of road salt on stream and river restoration efforts."
More information, and pre-registration, regarding this event, "Increased salinization of freshwater in the northeastern U.S.," is available online from the American Water Resources Association at awra-pmas.memberlodge.org – go to "view events."
Connecting The (Salty, Toxic) Dots
Ordinary citizens are not invited to testify at the PA Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy hearing on Marcellus Shale waste treatment in Harrisburg on January 27, 2010 at 9 AM. Only the Marcellus Shale industry, state DEP officials, and one environmental group are invited to testify. However, this hearing is open to the public. It will be the last public governmental meeting to take place before the regulations which will determine Pennsylvania’s water quality standards for years to come are put into place. Marcellus waste also releases hazardous pollutants into the air. Citizens may attend the hearing and may also submit written [email] testimony to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Separately, the Department of Environmental Protection is also accepting written testimony regarding clean water standards in the state of Pennsylvania. The DEP does not plan to test for the majority of toxic chemicals present in Marcellus Shale wastewater (it may not test for any, depending on which standards it adopts). Marcellus Shale waste is exempt from federal environmental standards due to the "Halliburton Loophole" passed in 2005. The public comment period closes in early February; details are available from Clean Water Action.
In the name of Life Itself, DON'T SIT IDLY BY!!! WRITE to the PA Senate Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy AND to the DEP!