Marcellus Drilling Debate Now Affecting Conventional Gas Drilling in New York State

The debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale has now spilled over to affect conventional gas drilling in New York State. Protesters rallied outside Auburn City Hall (a small city in Upstate New York) yesterday afternoon to oppose the local municipal sewage treatment plant’s practice of accepting gas drilling wastewater for treatment and release into the Owasco River. None of the wastewater accepted comes from Marcellus Shale drilling—it all comes from conventional natural gas drilling in New York State.

Vicky Murphy, Auburn’s Director of Municipal Utilities, says the plant had to get a DEC permit to accept the well water. The plant is also monitored by the EPA and has taken part in several City-directed tests. "We actually have an activated sludge plant, which are microorganisms that are alive. They’re very sensitive to toxins," said Murphy. "We’ve never seen an adverse effect."

The City says less than one percent of what’s treated at the plant is water from natural gas well drilling sites and none of it is from the controversial horizontal hydrofracking method in the Marcellus Shale.

"We’re meeting all the regulations," Murphy said.*

The conventional gas drilling wastewater is less than one percent of the plant’s overall volume, and they charge to treat it, bringing in 21 percent of the plant’s yearly budget. And it’s something that has gone on for years with no adverse affects, and is closely monitored by the DEC and the EPA. But those facts make no difference to the protesters.

Protesting any kind of technology you don’t understand seems to be the cause célèbre in nutty New York.

*WSYR/News Channel 9 (Jun 2, 2011) – Auburn residents protest wastewater plant’s accepting water from gas wells