Fracking wastewater in our water, rivers and food?

Brittany Fallon, Conservation and Legislative Organizer

You may know that the oil & gas industry injects water underground to release oil and gas during fracking. The industrial waste that comes back up is called “produced water,” and it is contaminated both by the chemicals that companies put into it and by the minerals released from the ground. Companies have to figure out what to do with the wastewater that comes back up. Ideally, they reuse it on the oil fields instead of using fresh water. But there are some concerning proposals to reuse that wastewater in other places, like for watering crops and livestock, or discharging it into rivers.

That’s where you come in: we need your help. The New Mexico Environment Department is holding public meetings all over the state before they write rules about produced water treatment and re-use, in Albuquerque (Oct 15), Santa Fe (Oct 30), Carlsbad (Nov 14), Farmington (Nov 19), and Las Cruces (Nov 25). The rule they eventually write will then later also be open for formal public comment.

Here are the facts. Produced water should NOT be used outside of the oil and gas field. There has been little research on New Mexico produced water and its potential impacts on water, soil, and human health. Because some frac fluids are classified as trade secrets, we do not actually know what is in this fracking wastewater or how to treat it. Critically, we lack EPA-approved testing methods for around 77% of potential produced water chemicals, and only about 9% of these chemicals appear on major federal water/waste regulatory lists, like those stemming from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Although a new research consortium just formed at NMSU to tackle our lack of understanding about produced water, doing such research properly will take years. Until we have thorough science, any re-use outside of the oilfield could allow industry to profit off of their wastewater at the expense of public health. 

It is critical that environment supporters participate to ensure that New Mexico has strong regulations if the state decides to permit new reuse options for this wastewater. Please RSVP here to attend:

Read more about why produced water in New Mexico. You can also read about why drinking water standards are the wrong standards for produced water treatment here.

For more information, please contact Brittany Fallon:

Fracking wastewater in our water, rivers and food?
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