Chesapeake Withdraws Application to Store Millions of Gallons of Wastewater near Keuka Lake

Syracuse Post-Standard (Feb 21)
Plan to truck hydrofracking wastewater to Finger Lakes shelved, for now

Readers of Marcellus Drilling News know that we advocate for landowners, and that we support safe drilling. But, drilling companies sometimes do themselves no favors and deservedly receive suspicion and condemnation. Case in point: Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest drillers in the U.S., is looking for a place to store millions of gallons of wastewater from their drilling operations in Pennsylvania. They thought they may have found a spot in the Steuben County (New York) town of Pulteney, in an old gas well no longer in use. They wanted to store up to 663 million gallons of wastewater—called “flowback” in the drilling business—in the old gas well, and they filed an application to do so.

Flowback, which is water combined with sand and unspecified chemicals, is what’s leftover after it’s been pumped into the ground and brought back out again. The problem is, the chemicals used by drilling companies are a closely guarded trade secret—something that gives them an edge over competitors when drilling. So no one knows what, exactly, is in the flowback, nor in what proportions. This makes people uneasy when you want to store millions of gallons of it close to homes with water wells, and close to their vineyards. The old gas well sits next door to an active vineyard.

It’s also bone-headed of Chesapeake to want to store it in this particular abandoned gas well, as the location is just one mile away from Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Central New York. The proposed underground storage by Chesapeake “would not be lined or contained.” If, by some unfortunate event, the stored flowback were to leak into Keuka Lake, the resulting contamination could be catastrophic. It appears to be a risk just not worth taking. Much better for Chesapeake to look for a facility that will treat the flowback and return it to them to be reused for more drilling.

Chesapeake has withdrawn its application for now. Although not a popular subject with drillers, if drilling companies were to disclose the chemicals used in the drilling process, it would go a long way to silencing the critics that there is no safe way to drill.

The article from the Syracuse Post-Standard is fair and balanced (more or less) with a video interview of a local landowner who lives across from the abandoned gas well. It’s worth your time to read the article and watch the video interview.