RYE, N.Y. – Hydraulic fracturing may not seem like a concern for Westchester residents, but according to the Rye-based Grassroots Environmental Education, its health affects will extend into the region.
“They are having a tough time finding a wastewater treatment plant that can deal with this. There is not a single one. There’s no way that the volume of wastewater is going to be handled in this state,” said Patricia Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education. Wood spoke Tuesday night at the Rye-based nonprofit environmental health organization’s presentation “Focus on Fracking” at the Wainwright House.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a technology developed to extract natural gas from underground shale. It’s done by drilling miles under the ground into shale deposits and injecting millions of gallons of a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. Toxic wastewater, called flowback fluid, can return to the surface along with gas and other contaminants, including radioactive materials, Wood said.
The group showed a short film, “The Sky Is Pink” by Josh Fox, the filmmaker who produced "Gasland," a film that notoriously showed a Pennsylvania resident demonstrating how he could light the water streaming out of his faucet on fire, which the film said was due to contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing.
Fracturing is conducted throughout 34 states, but the largest reserve is the Marcellus Shale, an area that extends from Virginia to Sullivan County. Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, a retired pediatrician and former secretary of the Conference of NGOs at the United Nations Committee on Children’s Rights, lives over the Marcellus Shale in Sullivan County.
“Only 2 percent of water is drinkable. The Earth was born with that amount of water. We’re not getting any more,” she said Tuesday night. “It goes through a cycle of rain and precipitation to replete the aquifers, but once that’s gone, it’s gone.”
Dyrszka said drilling will not only impact people who live in the shale region, but those who live near pipelines, those who receive their water from gas drilling areas, and those who are downwind of gas producing or processing areas, and whoever receives gas drilling waste, including, possibly, several sewage treatment facilities in Westchester.
“One of the ways we’ll be able to arm ourselves, is that we are New York City’s watershed,” said county Legislator Judith Meyers (D-Mamaroneck), who was seated in the small crowd at Wainwright House on Tuesday night. “We were created to provide the water for New York City … (which has) such a powerful voice in Albany. If they can demand, ‘Thou shalt not disturb our water,’ then we can get the benefit of it.”