You may know that drillers inject 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 in the oil fields instead of consuming fresh water for the millions of gallons that fracking requires.
But some have proposed reusing the fracking wastewater elsewhere, like for watering crops and livestock, or discharging into rivers.
Tell New Mexico Environment Department: Prohibit reuse of fracking wastewater outside the oil fields.
The New Mexico Environment Department is holding public meetings before writing rules about where and how produced water can be treated and used. There’s a meeting from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 30, at St. Francis Auditorium, 107 W. Palace Ave. in Santa Fe.
Please meet Sierra Club’s Miya King-Flaherty in the lobby at 5:30 to get more information about what you can say to ensure strong rules. The rules the state eventually writes will also be open for formal public comment.
Here are the facts on “produced” water:
- 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 fracking 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.
- Regulatory standards haven’t been written with produced-water chemicals in mind – so fracked water could be treated to meet existing standards and still contain harmful chemicals. For example, ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in antifreeze and toxic to humans and animals, is one of the 10 most used chemicals in hydraulic fracturing, repeatedly showing up in produced water. But it is not on the National Primary Drinking Water Regulation list, so treated produced water could contain ethylene glycol and still meet drinking-water standards.
- Until we have thorough science and appropriate standards, any re-use outside of the oilfield could allow industry to profit off their wastewater at the expense of public health.
Please send your comments to the Environment Department and attend Wednesday’s meeting if you can. It is critical that environment supporters ensure that New Mexico has strong regulations.
Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter conservation organizer