The Olean Times Herald reports that the Seneca Indian tribe is petitioning the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to not issue permits for a water quality management and discharge plant to be built and operated by Epiphany Alleghany, LLC at the base of Allegheny River in Potter County, Pennsylvania.
The tribe alleges that the plant will pollute the river since the facility will be used to treat wastewater from fracking. Epiphany Alleghany responded stating the accusation is not true and that their wastewater treatment systems make water clean enough to drink. The company further accused the Seneca Nation of providing inaccurate information.
Opponents, for example, claim that fracking wastewater can be highly radioactive and there have been studies done that find a correlation. However, even this is not entirely clear. USA Today pointed out when this possibility came to light four years ago:
But other research has found little harm from fracking. Duke and federal scientists, in a study released earlier this year, found no evidence that shale gas production in Arkansas caused groundwater contamination. A Department of Energy study this year also found no proof that fracking chemicals tainted drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site.
Scientists attribute the mixed research results to varying geology and industry practices nationwide. Fracking fluids are sometimes reused or disposed of in deep injection wells, but in some cases, they are treated and released into public waterways.
Years of such disposal have created “potential environmental risks for thousands of years to come,” says Vengosh, adding that the water will need to be cleaned.
An industry group faults the Duke study as outdated and biased. “The shale industry has not taken flow-back water to this treatment facility, or any similar facility in Pennsylvania, since May 2011,” says Patrick Creighton, spokesman of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. He cites 2011 tests by state environment officials that showed no radioactive contaminants in the water used and produced at 12 of 14 water suppliers in western Pennsylvania.
While more research should be done to see if fracking wastewater is contaminted with radiation, the entire controversy surrounding the wastewater treatment plant is geared to stop the use of fracking. If the Seneca Nation is successful in preventing the plant from being allowed to operate, in theory, it should make fracking more difficult since there would be one less facility to treat fracking wastewater.
In reality, the Seneca Nation sets itself up for failure. By opposing this plant and using questionable or even misleading information to make their case, companies will be less likely to cooperate with Indian tribes and locate projects like this further away from the tribe making it less likely for tribal members to find work, driving people out of work.
Even the Standing Rock Indian tribe, who opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline, will end up in even worse shape than they are since projects that can develop the area near will not be built. In the end for tribes like the Seneca and Standing Rock nations, its all in the name of their altruistic cause, come hell or wastewater.