Auburn, NY Rescinds Ban on Gas Drilling Wastewater

Wiser heads have prevailed in the upstate New York Finger Lakes community of Auburn—the Auburn city council has voted to once again allow the municipal sewage treatment plant to accept gas drilling wastewater.

As you may recall, MDN told you about protesters who descended on the tiny city of Auburn last year to protest not Marcellus wastewater being treated at the sewage plant, but local conventional gas drilling wastewater—something that had been going on for 15 years with no adverse effects (see this MDN story). In the rush to condemn fracking and prevent horizontal drilling in the state, ignorant protesters have fallen into the trap of protesting all gas drilling in the state—drilling that has gone on for decades.

The Auburn protests led to city council banning the acceptance of conventional drilling wastewater, which had been less than 1 percent of the total volume of what the sewage plant processed, yet was providing 21 percent of the plant’s yearly budget. City council finally woke up and changed it.

City councilors in Auburn have rescinded the city’s ban on accepting gas drilling wastewater.

In a 3-2 vote, city councilors opted to reverse the ban and allow the city to once again accept wastewater into its sewage treatment plant. The ban was put in place last spring amid concerns about pollutants in the wastewater.

Cayuga County has a number of vertical gas wells currently in use in the area and that is where most of the wastewater comes from.

Those in favor of accepting the wastewater say supporters of the ban are including hydrofracking into the argument, which should not be the case.

"The City of Auburn does not take in Marcellus Shale wastewater or Utica Shale wastewater," Matthew Smith, Auburn City Council. "We take in the local wells, and this has been safe for us for 15 years. No accident has occurred within the City of Auburn treatment plant, and there was no reason to remove this in the first place."

Smith said the city has brought in more than half a million dollars in revenue in the past by accepting the water at its treatment plants.*

*YNN (Mar 8, 2012) – Auburn votes to rescind ban on fracking wastewater