More American are faced with deregulation of environmental rules that is impacting public health. The direction that New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Office of the State Engineer (OSE) and Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) are currently on a path to directly impact residents in the state and counties through (de)regulations by allowing oil and gas wastewater to be used outside of industry. Regulations will allow the contamination whether the water is treated or not. Very rarely do NM state agencies enforce regulations due to inadequate funding and blocked legislation by oil and gas lobbyists or even the legislators, that would allow auditing of self-reported numbers on operators in the state to allow the full enforcement and protection of the environment. Nearly 1/3 of state agencies' funding has been cut. Many of the agencies now have the infiltration from industry, as they were former employees that now have environmental oversight and who have direct conflicts of interests.
Oil and gas legislation, like HB 546 on produced water, along with current rule making is now taking place in large oil and gas producing states nationwide. Pennsylvania is one place that has been ahead of the curve on contaminating residents, and the environment.
The study also said, “The potential toxicity of these wastewaters is a concern as lab experiments demonstrated that nearly all of the metals from these wastewaters leach from roads after rain events, likely reaching ground and surface water.”
Adding, “Release of a known carcinogen (e.g., radium) from roads treated with O&G wastewaters has been largely ignored. In Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2014, spreading O&G wastewater on roads released over 4 times more radium to the environment (320 millicuries) than O&G wastewater treatment facilities and 200 times more radium than spill events.”
DEP disallowed the use of wastewater from unconventional (Shale gas) wells in road spreading for dust suppression, anti-icing, prewetting or road stabilization in 2016 changes to its regulations. The State of New Mexico is far worse. the legislature exempted oversight on brine wells over 2500 ft in depth and radium. This may prove to be the most detrimental actions to public health and safety.
In the Rio Grande Valley the pumping of brine wells and geology has the potential of causing severe water scarcity as potential impacts were pointed out in 2009 and the 2013 Shoemaker Report for the Interstate Stream Commission. (See previous blog posts)
Among the specific findings in the study are:
- “Spreading O&G wastewater on roads can harm aquatic life and pose health risks to humans.”
- “Experiments simulating the application of O&G wastewater to road materials followed by leaching with synthetic rainwater demonstrated that the majority of contaminants are not retained in the road.”
- “Despite the presence of biologically active organic micropollutants that could promote cancer, the high salt concentrations in O&G wastewaters transported from the road to surface water after rain events are likely the major potential threat to aquatic toxicity.”
- “These wastewaters could require up to 1600 times dilution to reach drinking water quality standards or approximately 100 times dilution to reduce acute toxicity to aquatic organisms.”
- “Some contaminants such as lead, radium, and organic micropollutants may also accumulate in roads treated with O&G wastewaters.”
- “This study showed that radioactive radium was partially retained in the road materials, but its concentration reached a plateau after multiple applications of O&G wastewater. Additional radium applied to radium- saturated road materials could be transported to surface water or groundwater or accumulate in local soils.” And Airborne. In fact, Lock the Gate Movement in Australia reports many ranchers have reported radium in water tanks for livestock from wind-driven particulate matter. This is a great concern in produced water, especially in uranium-rich earth.
- “The release of radium, a known carcinogen, is a potential threat to human health. In Pennsylvania, we found that radioactivity associated with radium released to the environment via road spreading exceeds the radioactivity of radium released by spill events or wastewater treatment plants.”
- “The spreading of O&G wastewaters on roads could be a significant contributor of inorganic and organic micropollutants to the environment and has been largely ignored in environmental studies on O&G development.” Click Here for a copy of the study.
There are many similarities regarding impacts that are happening elsewhere in the country where fracking occurs.
For example, this was the case with NMED in 2017, when the GWB Chief Hunter approved a temporary permission that spread the toxic brine contamination on the County roads in the Rio Puerco and the impoundment construction for the brine well discharge.
The Discharge permit 1682 is still being evaluated by the NMED. Once that decision is made all the owners and partners of these wells have to do is get their pump permit and start contaminating the 1000’s of acres that have sold leases on public lands, state lands and the AMREP Holdings of 55,000 acres. From Chaco down the Rio Puerco into the Albuquerque - Upper Middle Rio Grande Basin. (See the MRCOG Blog post for update)
Meanwhile, New Mexico Legislature rush HB 546 and bill sponsors House Speaker Brian Egolf and Rep Nathan Small refused to address these issues, streamline this bill, as the fastest-pass in the history of the state legislature. They refused to tell our environmental and citizens group where a conference meeting was being held and refuse to hear our issues with the bill. The Office of the Attorney General covered-up the ethical violations and determined that the legislature doesn't have to be transparent to citizens of the state. Yes, we have this writing. Unfortunately. Now under the order of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, NMED, OSE, AND NMNRD are now coming forward soliciting public comments so they can give industry the profits while poisoning people and the environment. There is nothing sweet about this bad news.
Speak Out on threats to Agricultural, Public Health and Safety
Attend the informational meetings in the 4 locations around the state.
On September 12, 2019 press release NMED announced that it will host outreach meetings.
Produced Water Commenting Meetings are scheduled for:
The agenda for each meeting is as follows:
October 15th, 6:00-8:30 pm Hispanic Cultural Center Albuquerque, NM
6:00 - 7:15 p.m Presentation by senior officials from NMED, EMNRD and OSE on Produced Water Act provisions, roles of each state agency, NMED’s public engagement and rule making process, and science and technology for produced water treatment and use outside the oil and gas sector.
7:30 - 8:30 p.m: Question-and-answer session and public input on management and treatment of produced water
Produced water is defined in the Produced Water Act as, “fluid that is a byproduct from drilling for or production of oil and gas.” Most produced water is highly saline water that is recovered during oil and gas production. Produced water may also include fluids that were used during drilling, such as hydraulic fracturing fluids. Brine is often used as an additive of the fracking fluids process. Over 42 billion gallons of produced water were generated in New Mexico’s Permian Basin in 2018 alone.
Pause On fracking and Common Ground rising are advocating for:
NO USE OUTSIDE OF INDUSTRY
There have been:
- No studies on radium and cumulative impacts
- No studies on emissions
- No studies on windblown dust particles
- No studies on Groundwater contamination.
- No studies on feasibility impacts that include externalities
- No studies on Aquifer Injection
- No studies on produced water effluent to Waters of the United States or ephemeral streams.
We demand that these studies be completed with a full EIS.
Join the Call to Action to stop produced water being used outside of industry.
Please submit your feedback and comments to our elected and appointed officials.
“Research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in May reported on the spreading of oil and gas wastewater on roads specifically. Experts at The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Alberta found:
“…nearly all of the metals from these wastewaters leach from roads after rain events, likely reaching ground and surface water. Release of a known carcinogen (e.g., radium) from roads treated with O&G wastewaters has been largely ignored. In Pennsylvania from 2008 to 2014, spreading O&G wastewater on roads released over 4 times more radium to the environment (320 millicuries) than O&G wastewater treatment facilities and 200 times more radium than spill events.”
A case study of brine spreading was also conducted in Farmington Township, Warren County by hydrogeologist Paul Rubin, who stated, “Hydrologically, it is not possible to regulate the spreading of chemically-laden production brines in a manner that will preclude off-road transport to surface and groundwater resources.” While Warren County is in northwestern PA, it is representative of the geologic and hydrologic conditions present throughout Pennsylvania.
Other documented risks have recently been summarized by Penn State Law and Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment:
“Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Spreading Oil and Gas Wastewater on Roads,”T. L. Tasker, W. D. Burgos, et al., Environmental Science & Technology, May 30, 2018, 52 (12), 7081-7091 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00716
“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Beneficial Reuse Program for…Road Spreading Halted Pending Revised Processes,” Lara B. Fowler, Penn State Law/Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, June 5, 2018.
Radium samples from the Brine wells in Sandoval County prior to any fracking fluid additives. The NMED should consider integration of brine when regulating any contaminants in produced water since it is used as the primary liquid in most fracking fluids that return the backflow of produced water. Citizens have constitutional protections to protect the environment, health and safety. The legislation was not transparent nor did it invite participation. Toxins are being spread in the environment that are impacting human health and environment. The state’s governor wants to continue to allow this to happen.
Brine well #6 Spill of toxic brine in Sandoval County Rio West, The radium left to find wind driven pathway and exposures.